February 25, 2019
HFANZ: MEDIA RELEASE
Insurers funding record healthcare as access to public system worsens
Health insurers have been funding record levels of healthcare and covering more surgery as DHBs struggle to meet people’s needs in a reasonable timeframe, the Health Funds Association (HFANZ) said today.
Commenting on the release of health insurance statistics for the 2018 year, HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said health insurance was actually providing a safety net to the public system for those who have it.
“It’s clear we have not seen any improvement in access to public surgery in the past year. If anything it seems to have got worse,” Mr Styles said. He said there had been huge disruption in the public hospital sector, with waves of industrial action having an adverse impact on DHBs meeting people’s surgery needs, and DHBs set to cut spending further to avoid massive debt blowouts.
“Health insurance has provided timely access to surgery for the nearly 30 percent of New Zealanders who have it – with funded healthcare claims up nearly 10 percent in the past year,” Mr Styles said.
“Of course, with more claims funded, premiums are also up over the past year by around 8 percent, although there has been an increase in total lives covered – up by 20,000 over the 2018 year, or around one and a half percent.”
Despite concern over recent years around the affordability of sustained premium increases, particularly for older New Zealanders, health insurance coverage for those aged 65 and over remained at around 22 percent of the population.
Mr Styles said HFANZ had some tips for those looking to mitigate the impact of rising premiums. “Opting for a higher excess is the most common. This effectively means self-insuring a portion of potential treatment costs and covering smaller medical bills out of pocket, but having health insurance for the big things if needed. Most insurers offer excesses of $2000– $4000 in return for a lower monthly premium.”
Choosing major medical rather than comprehensive insurance would also reduce annual premiums, he said. This was now the most common policy with around two-thirds of those insured.
Mr Styles said it made sense for people to simply talk with their insurer about what options might be available to limit or even reduce premium increases. The latest HFANZ statistics showed the number of lives covered was up by 2100 for the December 2018 quarter, bringing the total number of New Zealanders with health insurance to 1.403 million.
Claims paid in the December quarter was up 11.9 percent to $346 million on the same period in 2017, while annual claims paid for calendar 2018 totalled $1.3 billion, up $115 million or 9.7 percent.
Premium income for the quarter was up $12 million or 3.2 percent on the September 2018 quarter to $403 million. Annually, premium income rose $119 million or 8.3 percent to $1.550 billion.
Click here to download the statistical summary.