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“Best in, First Served” Affirms Health Insurer

“Best in, First Served” Affirms Health Insurer

July 30, 2013

District Health Boards are displaying the slogan “Worst in, first served” at their emergency departments (EDs) to persuade people with minor ailments to visit their GP.

Accuro Health Insurance, in reacting to the gridlock of patients that DHBs are facing, is reversing the slogan. Quality private health insurance is “best in, first served” it says.

In the light of people choosing EDs over their doctor and recent Treasury projections about the cost of health care, Accuro says “best” practice is purchasing health insurance to be “first served” when people need it.

Treasury figures show that the healthcare costs will grow from 6.8 percent of GDP in 2010 to about 10.8 percent in 2060, a conservative estimate.

Much of the increase is due to the cost of technology, more treatable health conditions and caring for an ageing population. While New Zealand’s real per capita government spending has risen by 144 percent in the last 60 years, spending on healthcare has increased by 412 percent. “We think this trend will continue,” Treasury says.

CEO of Accuro Health Insurance, Bruce Morrison, predicts the government can’t continue the trend and will have to implement drastic cut-backs within 20 years.

He says it’s evidenced already by the pressure on emergency departments and changes to criteria so patients can access six-month waiting lists for non-urgent surgery. To achieve that “there’s a waiting list before you can join the waiting list” Bruce Morrison says.

While Treasury argues the aim of the health system is to support “our economy by enabling greater participation in the workforce and higher productivity” Bruce Morrison believes this can only be achieved by a greater partnership between public and private and government incentives for people to maintain their own health insurance.

He also wants to reaffirm the industry’s initiative for the government to provide incentives for people, especially the elderly, to maintain their own health insurance.

He says too many senior citizens are cancelling their policies – because they can’t afford them just when it’s important they should determine their own health needs.

“These people end up in the public health system and their ongoing requirement for shoulder, knee and heart surgery takes a significant and ever increasing share of the health budget,” Bruce comments.

He strongly recommends the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, should study the Australian model which provides an incentive for everyone on private health insurance.

“Their government has an effective public/private health model and, as a result nearly half of Australians have health insurance, up from 30 percent in 1999. In comparison less than a third of New Zealanders have health insurance, down from 48 percent in 1990.

In the last quarter 6,000 people cancelled their policies with every private insurer with the exception of Accuro, losing members.

Bruce Morrison points out that, if health insurance remained at the same level 20 years ago, there’d be a public health saving of $300-400 million.

“A subsidy such as a tax rebate to retain health insurance for the over 65s is far more valuable than a range of Gold Card concessions for bus travel and cheap cinema tickets,” he says.

Last year Bruce Morrison sought a meeting to present his ideas to Minister Tony Ryall but was declined. This year he’s seeking an appointment with Associate Minister of Health, Jo Goodhew, on behalf of the industry.

“She’s presenting her thoughts on encouraging greater cross industry collaboration in healthcare and the role of the private sector at a New Zealand Healthcare Summit in October. It’s good news for health insurers if she has an open mind,” he says.

“The public purse can’t continue to look after elective surgery. Private health must take a bigger role and we want to work with the Minister and Associate Minister to achieve that end.”

In the meantime he’s encouraging people that it’s best for them to be in first to have their health requirements resolved.


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