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Total NZers with health insurance passes 1.4 million

Health insurers have recorded continued growth in lives covered and claims paid for the September 2018 quarter, bringing the number of New Zealanders with health insurance up past the 1.4 million mark for the first time in more than two decades.

A record additional 26,530 lives covered in the year to September 30 brings the overall total past the previous high of 1.392 million in December 2009, the latest industry data reveals.

Health Funds Association (HFANZ) chief executive Roger Styles said this was the fourteenth straight quarterly increase in lives covered, with 2017-18 recording the strongest growth in lives covered since 2001.

Mr Styles said the bulk of the increase was again in the working age group, reflecting the continued growth in employment numbers and indicating workers were opting for health insurance packages that were partly funded by their employers.

“These latest figures take us back to levels higher than before the 2008 global financial crisis and hark back to 20 years ago when close to half the population had health insurance. Back then most policies were comprehensive cover and offered reimbursements for things like GP and dental visits. Now around 70 percent of policies are for major medical or surgical and specialist cover, with insurers funding an increasing range of treatments,” he said.

Claims paid for the September quarter totalled $342 million, up 6.7 percent on the September 2017 quarter, and brought the total for the 12 months to the end of September to $1.263 billion, up $89 million or 7.6 percent, on the September 2017 year.

Mr Styles said claims paid had effectively doubled over the past decade as people accessed both a greater volume and a wider range of services and treatments through health insurance, and the public system had struggled to keep pace with demand growth, especially for elective surgery.

The growth in healthcare claims paid was reflected in the growth in premiums over the same period. Premium income for the September 2018 quarter totalled $391 million, up by $8 million on the June quarter. Annual premium for the year ended September 30, 2018 was $1.516 billion, up 7.4 percent or $105 million on the September 2017 year.

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