HFANZ: Ministry Figures Confirm Waiting List Pressure

HFANZ's latest media release:

Ministry figures confirm waiting list pressure

District Health Board data released today has confirmed more and more people are waiting for elective surgery.

The Health Funds Association of New Zealand (HFANZ) says the latest specialist referral figures from the Ministry of Health confirm two key trends:

  1. The level of unmet need is increasing;
  2. The considerable additional investment in health is only keeping pace with the growth in demand.

HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said the figures were consistent with the association’s own research, which showed up to 280,000 people were waiting for surgery.

“The numbers reported by DHBs are in line with our research,” he said. “More and more people need surgery, but our public system is stretching just to keep pace with growing demand, while less urgent cases have to wait longer and longer.

“What the DHB figures don’t show is the gap between referrals and surgery. The gap between needing and getting surgery is unmet need, and that’s growing.”

Mr Styles said the ministry’s assessment of unmet need was lower than HFANZ’s, but the trend was unmistakeable. 

“More people are waiting for surgery and they are waiting longer,” he said.


HFANZ: Referred Elective Surgery Need Just the Tip of the Iceburg

Health Funds Association of New Zealand - MEDIA RELEASE from 7 March 2016.

Referred elective surgery need just the tip of the iceberg

The Health Funds Association (HFANZ) says the Government has made a good start in measuring the unmet needs of New Zealanders referred for elective surgery, but stresses that this subset of unmet need is part of a much bigger picture.

Government figures released today show thousands of New Zealanders are going without the surgery they need due to an overloaded public health system.

“While measuring referred unmet need is important, it is just a small slice of total unmet need,” HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said.

In 2013, HFANZ conducted research which indicated that while around 110,000 New Zealanders were officially waiting for elective surgery, there were another 170,000 requiring surgery but who were not on any list.

“These are people who need surgery and may be in pain, but whose GP has not referred them on the basis that they are unlikely to meet the public sector threshold to get it within four months.

“Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is right when he says that the best way to meet unmet need is to carry out more surgeries. Growing demand for elective surgery needs to be addressed and one way of doing this is to improve access to elective surgery via health insurance,” Mr Styles said.

“New Zealand has a strong public health system that deals well with emergency, maternity, mental health and life-threatening conditions. The private health sector complements this system by relieving pressure for elective procedures and in a more timely fashion.

“Our members’ message to Government is simple: the private health sector is here to support, not undercut, the public system,” he said.

“Elective surgery wait times do not need to get worse before they get better.”

HFANZ said health insurance had funded more than 150,000 elective surgical procedures in the past year, but with increased demand, there was the capacity and the willingness to do much more.

Results from HFANZ’s 2016 research into this need will be released later this month.



If Only Industry Bodies Could Work Together

In his incredible work of observational economics ("The Wealth of Nations") Adam Smith identified the tendency of business folk to collude. Since then it has been accepted that consumers have generally been better off when companies from the same industry do not talk to each other too much about certain things. But there are limits, and sadly, New Zealand is exploring those limits.

The only patchy coverage of the market that will remain if both the HFANZ and FSC lack major industry players from their memberships renders market data almost useless. Market data has been one of the main reasons for membership. Lobbying on common issues, such as potential legislation, promotional campaigns, standards, and tax matters are other useful services, but are less reliably valuable. These too will all suffer if reconciliation cannot be managed.

It would be a great shame.

But the associations cannot simply stand back and wait for insurers to return. They need to look hard at the value they deliver for the cost of membership. They also need to have better rules to manage friction between members. Recent disagreements should not form a long-run barrier to future co-operation - the next couple of issues to face insurers may see them all line up together to deliver a better outcome for all New Zealanders rather than splitting down the lines of different distribution channels as they have in the past.

The economics could be improved if the Healthfunds organisation were part of the FSC. 

HFANZ: Affordable Healthcare Bill Defeat Disappoints

HFANZ have released this press release expressing their disappointment at the failure of NZ First’s Affordable Healthcare Bill to make it past its first reading in the House yesterday.    

"Health insurers have expressed their regret that the New Zealand First-sponsored Affordable Healthcare Bill failed to get past its first reading in the House yesterday.

The member’s bill proposed a 25 percent health insurance rebate for people aged over 65, the removal of fringe benefit tax from health insurance to stop penalising employers who provide it for their staff, and a requirement that parent category migrants have health insurance on arrival and maintain it in New Zealand for 10 years.

Health Funds Association (HFANZ) chief executive Roger Styles said it was disappointing “that the Bill had not gained the support of Parliament, as it would have been a big step in helping to shore up future health funding sources and to address New Zealand’s dangerous over-reliance on taxpayer funding. 

However, he believed the Bill’s defeat actually signalled the start of debate on future health funding rather than the end of it.

“This is the first time in over two decades we have seen Parliament debate the issue of future health funding and measures to help broaden the dependence on taxpayer funding.  The debate can only intensify as the issue is not going away.”

Mr Styles said that while the Bill contained specific initiatives, there were potentially many measures which could help with future health financing, and HFANZ would be looking to work with all parties to help identify practical solutions.


HFANZ: Health Insurance Coverage Rises

HFANZ released figures yesterday confirming that the number of New Zealanders with private health insurance cover has continued to increase over the past year, along with the total value of claims paid.

The release read:

'Despite paying healthcare claims of over $1 billion in the year to the end of September, the industry says it could be playing a much larger role in funding New Zealand’s healthcare costs if the Government was more open to recognising its strategic value.

HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said successive governments had largely ignored the potential contribution from private health financing, despite increasing public funding difficulties.

He said recent research by NZIER suggested that health insurance could be funding up to $2-3 billion per annum in healthcare costs if New Zealand could match the levels of countries with similar health systems who harnessed private funding better.


“Given the current and forecast state of public health funding, it would seem obvious that some strategic thought should go into growing alternative health funding sources. Looking to develop more robust private funding of healthcare can only help relieve public funding pressures and improve overall health outcomes,” Mr Styles said.

He said he believed the Government’s draft health strategy, released last week, needed to give more prominence to growing private health funding to help counter the looming public funding shortfalls.

“If we had a more strategic approach to health financing, then we’d already be looking at the type of initiatives in the Affordable Healthcare Bill – a NZ First member’s bill currently before Parliament – such as getting rid of fringe benefit tax on employer-funded health insurance for their staff,” he said.

HFANZ statistics for the September quarter showed an increase of 3400 lives covered, bringing the total number of New Zealanders with health insurance to 1.337 million. On an annual basis, lives covered increased by 4600, or 0.3 percent, for the year ending September 2015.

Total claims paid amounted to $1.023 billion for the year ending September 30, 2015 – up 4.9 percent on the previous 12 months. Claims paid for the September quarter were $274 million, up 4.1 percent.'


New Chairman for HFANZ

Here is a media release from HFANZ released this morning.

"Accuro Health Insurance chief executive Geoff Annals has been elected chairman of the Health Funds Association (HFANZ), the industry organisation representing health insurers.

He takes over from Unimed chief executive Dermot Martin, who decided to step down at last week’s executive meeting after holding the position since December 2010. He also led the executive from 2000 to 2006. Christchurch-based Mr Martin will remain on the executive.

Mr Annals, of Wellington, has been a member of the HFANZ executive since becoming chief executive of Accuro in September 2013. He has been deputy chairman for the past year.

He has more than 30 years’ experience in the health sector. He began as a registered nurse at Waikato Hospital where he worked in a range of clinical and nursing and general management positions for 20 years. He was general manager of Waikato Hospital prior to his appointment as chief executive of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation in 2001, the position he held until his current appointment with Accuro.

Mr Annals was a director of Accuro from 2002 to 2013 and also served as its board chair."

Affordable Healthcare Bill

The full draft of the Affordable Health Care Bill can be found at this link

The Bill would provide a tax incentive for employers to provide health insurance for their staff. The Bill would also require health insurance a requirement for Parent Category visa applications, and reduce or control costs for older people with health insurance. 

This is being supported by health insurance providers who would like to see the extension of health insurance provision through workplaces and advocate that private funding is a good complement to public funding. 

Wellness in the Workplace Survey

The second Wellness in the Workplace survey conducted by Southern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ was released. It is a nationwide survey of 113 employers (with 116,00 employees) and can be found at this link.

Here is a list of various messages from the comprehensive report listed in a Southern Cross press release:

  • New Zealand lost 6.7 million working days to absence in 2014 - up from 6.1 million in 2012 - according to the second Wellness in the Workplace Survey.
  • The average number of annual absentee days per employee was 4.7, amounting to a national cost of $1.4 billion in 2014.
  • Average absenteeism has risen from 4.5 days since 2013, at an additional cost of $200 million.
  • Public sector workers absentee rates were 45.7% higher (6.7 days) than that of the private sector (4.6 days).
  • Manual employees took more sick leave with 5.1 days compared to non-manual employees at 3.9.
  • Larger organisations are more likely to have high rates of absenteeism, compared to SMEs where the absence of a staff member is more acute.
  • The two most common causes of absence across both non-manual and manual workers were: illness/injury unrelated to the workplace and caring for a family member of dependant.
  • 28.6% of businesses reported an increase in stress levels, while 14.3% reported a decrease.  57.1% saw stress levels stay the same. 
    • For those with 50+ staff, the proportion indicating general stress levels increased stood at 35.6%, compared with 23.3% for those with fewer than 50 staff.
    • The top five reasons given for stress and anxiety increasing were general workload, relationship issues, long hours, pressure to meet targets and financial concerns
    • Nine out of ten businesses believe wellness has an impact on productivity
  • 35% of New Zealanders continue to head into work unwell, despite a push by businesses for unwell workers to stay away.
  • Almost 80% of businesses have no policies or arrangements in place for older workers – and don’t think it’s required.
    • Over 40% of businesses expect to see an increase in the proportion of workers in their enterprise above 65 in the near future.
    • 79.6% (4 out of 5) businesses do not have any current policies or arrangements on place for older workers and don’t think it’s required.
    • For those that have plans in place, changes to the hours of work was the most common plan, followed by reduced hours of work, lighter duties and discussions around retirement options.
  • Only one third of businesses provide health insurance for their staff.
    • If fringe benefit tax (FBT) on employer subsidised health insurance were removed 56% of New Zealand businesses not currently providing it would look to do so.
    • Attending or waiting for medical appointments was the third most common cause of absence for non-manual employees in New Zealand – the first was non work-related illness and the second caring for a family member or other dependent due to illness or injury.

More Young Adults Taking Out Health Insurance

HFANZ's recent media release has the latest June 2015 health insurance statistics. The key points to note are a rise in lives covered (see chart below), particularly in the 25-35 and over-65 age groups, and that the total amount of claims paid is again over the $1 billion mark for the year.   

Read the full press release here.