HFANZ: Continued rise in numbers reflects value of health insurance

Health Funds Association of New Zealand media release:

November 11, 2019

Continued rise in numbers reflects value of health insurance

The continued rise in the number of New Zealanders covered by health insurance – now totalling 1.409 million – reflects the ongoing value people are getting out of it, the Health Funds Association (HFANZ) said today.

Releasing its latest statistics for the September quarter, HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said the total number of lives covered was up 2200, or 0.2 percent, for the quarter and 7900 or 0.6 percent for the year to the end of September, with the vast majority of that growth once again in the 25-40 age group.

He said employer-subsidised health insurance plans were continuing to prove attractive to both workers and their bosses as part of the focus on wellness in the workplace.

“In addition to the availability of wellbeing and wellness initiatives that many of our insurers now offer, health insurance means getting a better level of service through faster access to treatment when it’s needed and increasing options to access treatments and drugs not funded or provided in the public sector,” he said.

The year also saw an increase in the number of older New Zealanders with health insurance, which Mr Styles said was due to the ageing population and an acknowledgement by many policyholders that maintaining their cover was sensible in the face of increasing difficulty accessing public-funded healthcare such as elective surgery. The number of people aged 65 and over with health insurance grew by almost 1700 or 1.0 percent to 166,400 – around 22 percent of the 65+ population.

Mr Styles said claims paid were up to $369 million for the quarter, an increase of 7.9 percent on the September 2018 quarter. Claims paid for the year to September 30, 2019 totalled $1.362 billion, up 7.8 percent or $98 million on the previous September year.

Premium income for the quarter was up $9 million on the June quarter to $428 million. Annually, premium income rose $143 million or 9.3 percent to $1.659 billion.

ENDS (Full release and three-page statistical summary can be found here)

The following chart showing the estimates of changes by policy type is interesting: 

Annotation 2019-11-12 085837

The innovative new ways scientists are tackling high blood pressure

It is estimated around 750,000 kiwi's have hypertension, but only half of them are currently being treated.

“When you take a tablet for a condition that doesn’t hurt – it’s not like arthritis, where every morning you are reminded to take your pills because your knees hurt – and you get side effects, and you feel tired and lethargic, and it destroys your sex life, and you felt better before, what is the motivation? It’s a really big clinical issue.” says Professor Julian Paton, a professor of translational physiology at the University of Auckland medical school.

Click here to read more. 

nib: 'Health Comes First' roadshows

nib are running a 'Health Comes First - Moments of Truth' roadshow series between the 4th and 22nd of November. Details of the dates and venues are below, registration to these events will be open next week.

Auckland – North Shore

07 November - 9 am to 11 am. The North Lounge – North Harbour Stadium


07 November - 3pm to 5pm. Hatea Room, Discovery Settlers Hotel, 61 Hatea Drive

Auckland – Central

15 November - 12pm to 2pm. Tote on Ascot, Ellerslie Event Centre, 100 Ascot Drive, Remuera.

UK: Half of people surviving advanced melanoma due to immunotherapy drugs

UK Doctors say in this article that over half of melanoma patients are now surviving the disease that was considered untreatable a decade ago. Immunotherapy drugs are making a big impact on survival rates and quality of life. A clinical trial was done and had side effects like fatigue, rashes and diarrhoea, and after the trial the decision to make these drugs available worldwide was one of the fastest in NHS history. It is paying dividends. 

Southern Cross $10.7m surplus

Media release from Southern Cross:

Southern Cross Health Society posts $10.7m surplus on strong performance

Southern Cross Health Society has today released its annual financial results, posting a surplus of $10.7 million for the year ended 30 June 2019.

New Zealand’s largest health insurer, Southern Cross Health Society paid out $963.7 million in claims, up six per cent on the previous year. At 73 per cent of all private health insurance claims, the business paid out significantly more than its 62 per cent market share.

In the last financial year, the Health Society received $1,080.4 million in premiums. For each of those dollars it returned 89 cents in claims to members. This compares to an average of 67 cents in the dollar among the remaining New Zealand health insurers, with some returning as little as 60 cents in the dollar.

Southern Cross is a not-for-profit Friendly Society which aims to make a modest annual surplus to deliver maximum value for its members.

Southern Cross Health Society Chairman Greg Gent says the surplus is the result of carefully balancing income from premiums with outgoing claims.

“The Society continues to deliver excellent value for members with an outstanding claims ratio compared with other health insurers. We’re always conscious of the fine balance between offering maximum value for money to our members and ensuring the affordability of premiums.”

Chief Executive Nick Astwick says the results mean the Society can continue to look to the future with confidence.

“We’ve made some decisions over the past year that have delivered a sound result. We estimate our Affiliated Provider programme has saved an impressive $56 million and expect to see those savings continue. Digital adoption is also up significantly, with logins to My Southern Cross up 151 per cent.

“We’re now turning our minds to our goal of helping Kiwis live their healthiest lives; investing further in the business to deliver continued benefits and exceptional value for members in years to come.”

Southern Cross Health Society now has more than 870,000 members. It retained its Standard and Poor’s A+ financial strength rating for the 17th consecutive year.

Snapshot figures – FY19

• For every dollar received in premiums, Southern Cross Health Society returned 89 cents in claims

• 871,065 members – up 3,472 from last year

• $1,080.4 million premium income (up 9% on the previous year)

• $963.7 million total claims (up 6%)

• A surplus of $10.7 million

• 62% of the health insurance market but pay 73% of claims*

• Investments generated $22.1 million of income, with total investments at $492.5 million by the end of the year

• Standard and Poor’s A+ financial strength rating

In the year ended 30 June 2019, the Society paid 3.2 million claims, including:

• 251,426 surgical procedures

• 499,263 specialist consultations

• 659,377 prescriptions

• 728,281 GP visits

* Based on Health Funds Association of New Zealand data

Accuro launches free mental health aid

Press release from Accuro:

Accuro launches free mental health solution for more than 15,000 members

12 September 2019, Wellington

Easy and quick access to mental health diagnosis and support has been added to the range of services that Kiwis can call on from Accuro Health Insurance.

About 47% of New Zealanders will experience a mental illness and/or addiction at some time in their lives, with one in five people affected in any one year*.

“For many, issues such as depression or anxiety really affect their lives. Yet a lot of people don’t seek help or have issues with their treatment plan.” says Geoff Annals, CEO of Accuro Health Insurance, a not-for-profit health insurer based in Wellington. “The Government announced significant mental health funding this year, yet access to specialists can still be very limited, with long wait times, and can also be very expensive,”

“So Accuro is launching Mental Health Navigator in partnership with Best Doctors. First launched in Canada in 2016, Mental Health Navigator has since launched in Australia and will soon be available in Europe. Accuro members are amongst the first New Zealanders to have access to this service. Mental Health Navigator is completely free for Accuro members to use alongside their specialist insurance cover, which includes a $500 benefit towards further consultations with NZ registered psychologists and psychiatrists, should follow up be required.

The Mental Health Navigator is now available, for everyone covered by an Accuro Specialist Plan, aged 18+. It’s designed to break down barriers by providing fast, comprehensive and confidential access to a team of mental health professionals. A call to the Mental Health Navigator number will be answered by a specialist mental health nurse and followed up within 10-14 days by a video call with specialist psychologists and psychiatrists. This team can diagnose mental health conditions, develop a treatment plan, or act as a valuable second opinion. The mental health nurse then provides follow up support over the next 6-12 months.

“Fast access to diagnosis and treatment is an important part of people getting better before they get worse, and with typical wait times of two to six months through the public system, we feel access within two weeks can make a dramatic difference to a person’s wellbeing,” says Geoff Annals. “Mental Health Navigator is free, and people can access the service without having to leave their own home, an important detail for members who might be fearful of hospital appointments, or have trouble travelling to them.”

“This is the first time such a quick, easy and professional mental health support service has been available to New Zealanders through health insurance. The Accuro Mental Health Navigator joins Best Doctors, SkinVision, our wellbeing Health Hub and bowel cancer screening kits as active benefits that Accuro offers its members in supporting their health before they might need to call us. We call it Active Insurance,” adds Geoff Annals.


Australia: "life insurance industry under siege"

Chanticleer, at the AFR, (in this post, but you'll need a subscription) suggest that this is the case, using AMP's experience as the base, and generalising from that. I disagree. AMP's situation is fundamentally that of a wealth company sharpening its focus on that business, exiting the life sector. Meanwhile, some specialist insurance companies appear to be having a great time. It is true that for others it is more mixed, but the digital revolution is well underway, as is the shift towards living benefits. Riding those trends is probably the key to a successful future - for clients, advisers, and insurers.

AIA-Sovereign health insurance - a couple of big changes

AIA-Sovereign has upgraded medical insurance and although there are many changes, the two big improvements are in the minor surgery definition and the addition of an obstetric care allowance. These result in substantial uplifts in the product score. They weren't live earlier this week - but they are now. Do take a look.