A new survey of nearly 2000 New Zealanders in full-time employment has found that employees with health insurance took on average 2.2 fewer days off work for medical reasons per year than those without health insurance.
This was after factoring in variances across industry, age and gender.
The survey was conducted by TNS on behalf of Southern Cross Health Society. Of those surveyed, half had health insurance either partly or fully subsidised by their employer.
“What this shows is that health insurance can be a very business savvy way to maintain productivity,” says Southern Cross Health Society Chief Executive Peter Tynan.
“Dependent on the salary of the employee and the plan chosen, the gains from those two fewer days off alone could cover the entire cost of an annual health insurance policy.”
For a 35-year-old employee on an annual salary of $65,000, 2.2 days absence equates to approximately $550 in salary costs. The cost of an annual Southern Cross Wellbeing 1 policy for that employee is around $470*.
Tynan said the benefits of health insurance reached further than the direct financial gains from fewer sick days.
“Indirect costs of sick leave include productivity losses, temporary staff hire, client inconvenience and project delays – much of which is not fully accounted for. Having staff off sick can also put stress on other employees who have to make up for being a team mate down.”
“Health insurance gives employees the means to get health issues looked at sooner, at a more convenient time, and without financial worry. Knowing that healthcare costs are covered might also cause some to seek treatment earlier, and prevent issues from escalating – and therefore needing more substantial time off.”
Recruitment and retention
The new survey also highlighted the role of health insurance as a recruitment and retention tool.
Almost half of all fulltime employees said a subsidised health insurance scheme was one of the key factors they looked for when assessing potential employers.
Subsidised health insurance rated above car parks, the corporate reputation of the company and recommendations from friends or family.
The survey also showed that, all things being equal, employees with employer-subsidised health insurance enjoyed higher levels of job satisfaction. On average, employees with subsidised health insurance rated their employee satisfaction at 71%, compared to 66% for those without health insurance.
“Losing skilled, experienced and knowledgeable people is a blow for any business. And when workforces are lean, as they tend to be during downturns, retaining those key people becomes even more important,” said Tynan.
“In the current economic climate, maintaining or improving productivity is crucial to business success. Staff output, retaining good employees and attracting the best people are all vital parts of this equation.”
The not-for-profit Southern Cross Health Society is New Zealand’s largest health insurer. Around half of its 830,000 members are in corporate group schemes.
*Premium pricing is based on no excess, receiving the Healthy Lifestyle Reward and a direct debit discount as at February 2012.