News eDaily03 May 2017

New Zealand:Most Kiwis are ignoring health insurance

03 May 2017

New Zealanders are putting their health and financial security at risk by failing to take responsibility for their health, according to insurance giant nib.

In spite of 20,000 new people taking out health insurance in the past year (the biggest increase for many years), only 30% of New Zealanders (1.36 million) have health cover -- low by international standards and almost half that of Australia (where 56% have cover), reported the New Zealand Herald.

Meanwhile, waiting lists and times for public surgeries/treatments are increasing. Last year, the Health Funds Association of NZ said 110,000 people were on a waiting list while 170,000 had not even made it to a waiting list in spite of being told they needed elective surgery. Wait times were up to an average of 304 days (80 days longer than in 2013).

Mr Rob Hennin, CEO of nib, said that part of the problem is New Zealanders' historical attitude to health care, with many still believing the government would and should look after citizens.

Keeping Kiwis healthy currently accounts for about 22% of government spending or about 7% of GDP; government estimates suggest this will grow to 11% of GDP by 2060. Yet of the NZ$22 billion (US$15.2 billion) spent on health each year, only about 5% is covered by private health insurance.

"You'd have to say the current system is ultimately not sustainable and, if the country can't afford it, then we need a responsibility strategy," said Mr Hennin.

"We've done a lot of work over the last year or two so we can have a more informed discussion with government and the industry," said Mr Hennin, "and that has included looking at alternatives. Adopting something closer to the Australian system is one possibility; a tax regime which encourages private health insurance is another. A third idea is a Kiwi Health version of Kiwisaver so people put aside dedicated savings to help safeguard their future health.”  Kiwisaver is a voluntary, work-based savings initiative.


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