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During their search for a good workplace health insurance scheme, the management team at New Zealand Tube Mills discovered a Southern Cross package that met all their criteria - and then some. With 99 percent take-up, their staff clearly love it too, and the business is benefiting from Southern Cross's prompt response to medical claims.

Based in Lower Hutt, New Zealand Tube Mills (NZTM) has experienced a renaissance in the past few years. At one stage, the company was down to just 40 staff (from 400 in its exhaust-manufacturing heyday), but an innovative new product accompanied by a proactive marketing programme has seen it extend its reach to Australia, the United States, Belgium, Denmark and Russia.

In 2016, and with the profitability corner turned, General Manager Terry Carter felt the time was right to upgrade the discounted health insurance the company offered, to a fully subsidised scheme.

By then we had a solid team of 60, of whom many had been with us for a long time, he says. We saw the change as a good way to reward and retain this ageing workforce, and also to attract new blood.

NZTM chose Southern Cross health insurance because, says Terry, it offered exactly what the company was looking for: an affordable employee attraction and retention tool, and a way for staff to get treatment for non-urgent medical conditions as quickly as possible. What's more - and what proved to be the icing on the cake for his team - it provided full cover for all qualifying pre-existing health conditions.

We were negotiating our collective employment agreement at the time, and the team was blown away when we offered not only a pay rise but also full medical insurance. A number have since taken the opportunity to fund optional extra benefits and add family members to their policies, and the feedback is all good.

Nothing but positive results

While NZTM has no formal measures for the success of its health insurance scheme, Terry says many of its benefits are clear.

We have very low staff turnover and absenteeism rates, which to me indicates that we offer the team a good, supportive working environment, he says. Southern Cross health insurance has already proved its worth for people with health issues; at least three have been able to access life-changing surgery that they would otherwise have had to wait a long time for. Being first in the queue for treatment - and without any worries about fees - also means staff can quickly get back to full fitness and work, which is good for our business.

Terry adds that a number of other factors are likely contributing to staff wellbeing: all employees have four-day working weeks (three day weekends); the company provides free flu vaccinations and annual hearing tests; and a rigorous health and safety programme includes incentives for staff to suggest opportunities for improvement.

Speedy service, improving lives

For NZTM employee Mark Taylor*, the Southern Cross health insurance scheme enabled him to get treatment for a condition he'd tolerated for 15 years: cartilage problems in his right knee. With Southern Cross support, he underwent three extensive surgical operations, each requiring multiple post-operative hospital stays and several weeks off work. The total cost, he says, came to around $200,000.

I'm still a bit slow, but I'm more effective at work and my knee is in a much better state than it used to be, he says. I'd probably still be in pain and waiting for surgery if it weren't for Southern Cross.

Mark comments particularly on the speed of the pre-approval process.

One day I went to see the specialist about a tight calf muscle. He identified that the blood wasn't flowing, so within a few hours I was back in hospital having more surgery. In that short time Southern Cross arranged everything, including the pre-approval; they were fantastic.

With the company in good shape and Southern Cross health insurance a feature of its recruitment strategy, Terry says he's very pleased with NZTM's insurance partner of choice.

They're excellent to work with and I look forward to regular catch-ups with our account manager. I also like to keep abreast of Southern Cross's health and wellness initiatives; if the business continues to do well, we'll be signing up!

* The employee's name has been changed at their request.

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