Record $1.14 billion paid in health insurance claims


$98 million more paid out in 2016 than in 2015 for health insurnce Claims


There's been a surge of people taking out health insurance, and it's not been driven by the sale of bargain basement "minor medical" policies targeted at the young.

The Health Funds Association says 20,000 people took out health cover last year, the strongest growth in a decade, taking the number of Kiwis covered to 1.36 million.

But the demand was not for the minor medical policies which cover little more than cover GP visits, and other day-to-day expenses, said Health Funds' chief executive Roger Styles.

Instead, the policies Kiwis wanted were "major medical" policies that give people access to elective surgery without having to go onto the state health system's waiting lists.

The biggest leap in demand was an increase of 10,000 new policies issued to people aged 25-39.

Knee syrgeries, such as knee replacements, are routinely paid for by health insurers.

Styles said minor medical policies made up a mere 3.5 percent of all policies New Zealanders were shelling out premiums for.

Minor medical policies are a relatively new invention and cover a more limited range of medical coverage than traditional health insurance.

They typically cover some reimbursable items such as glasses, physiotherapy and GP visits, but had limited, or no cover for major surgery.

As a result, they are much cheaper than major medical policies.

Minor medical policies were pioneered by Australian ASX sharemarket-listed insurer NIB, but versions are now offered by eight health insurers including the country's largest Southern Cross Health Society.

Despite that, only around 48,000 people have opted for them.

Last year set a new record for claims made on health insurance, with $98 million more paid out in 2016 than in 2015.

Claims paid for the year jumped 9.4 percent to $1.136 billion as health insurers funded record levels of elective surgery.

Knee surgeries, such as knee replacements, are routinely paid for by health insurers, along with many other replacements.

Health Funds has been pushing for the Government to recognise the value of people paying for their own cover and would like to see fringe benefits tax taken off health insurance paid for by companies for their workers.

"Taking out health insurance means they are making a positive contribution to their own healthcare, at the same time as helping to relieve pressure on the public system," he said.

"New Zealanders with health insurance are literally saving the Government hundreds of millions of dollars each year." 

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