The need for individuals in New Zealand to have their own private health insurance is becoming more important in today’s economic climate.
The public health system is coming under more pressure with funding cuts and an inability to attract qualified staff. The result is a waiting list in the public hospitals to obtain non urgent surgical procedures. Waiting lists can vary depending on the condition requiring attention, but can extend to over a year for some procedures.
New Zealanders are recognising in increasing numbers that in order to get treatment when they need it, rather than being at the mercy of the public health system, they need to have private health insurance. NZ health insurance is a well established industry. Many of the traditional health insurance companies have been around for years, and have built up a solid base of clients. Health insurance companies offer a variety of products that can be tailored to an individual’s needs.
The trend that NZ health insurance companies have seen is towards the major medical type of cover. This covers major procedures, both surgical and non surgical, leaving the insured person to self insure for the less expensive doctors visits and prescription charges. The result is that premiums are kept to a minimum, making health insurance more attainable to the average New Zealander.
Many NZ health insurance companies offer a modular approach to their health insurance policies. The client can select a base plan and then choose optional extras. For instance they can add dental or optical treatment, specialist consultations and diagnostic testing, or select a lump sum option which is payable if they suffer a listed traumatic condition such as a heart attack or stroke.
Depending on the cash reserves a client has available, they can select an excess of their choice. This is the first amount they pay towards the cost of a claim. The higher the excess, the cheaper the premium as they are effectively self insuring for the first amount of a claim. A nil excess can be selected right through to an excess amount of $ 4,000.
Health insurance companies are recognising that New Zealanders need health insurance right through to old age. However as clients get older, the premiums become unaffordable as they are not working and premiums are age related. Therefore some companies have a premium that remains level after a certain age (say age 70 or 75). This provides certainty to the client that they can afford to keep their health insurance going indefinitely.
Private health insurance is evolving the meet the NZ health insurance purchaser’s needs. For instance a couple of companies now cover non pharmac drugs commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer.
More collaboration will be required in future between the Health Boards, government and private health insurance companies to ensure all parties work in tandem to ensure all New Zealanders have access to some form of treatment when they need it. The future way will be a combination of public and private facilities working together for the good of the health industry as a whole.
Government can do more to encourage this by facilitating and encouraging the uptake of private health insurance. This could be in the form of tax breaks on premiums paid for private health insurance, or a subsidy on the premiums paid for such policies.