Kiwis relying more on private healthcare

Thursday , 15 September 2016 by Alistair Gray

A significant rise in the number of elective surgical procedures paid for by not-for-profit health insurer, Southern Cross Health Society, shows more New Zealanders are choosing to rely on the private health system.

In the financial year to 30 June 2016, Southern Cross paid for 206,000 surgical procedures, up 18,000 (10%) from the previous year. In the same period, membership increased to 820,469 – the first period of sustained membership growth since 2009.

“We’re taking the claims trend, and the growth in the number of people we’re insuring, as signals that more New Zealanders are turning to the private health system to look after them if and when they need it,” said Peter Tynan, CEO of the Health Society.

Tynan said the trends aren’t surprising, given research from the Health Funds Association of New Zealand, which showed that 280,000 Kiwis are waiting for elective surgery, with 170,000 of these not even on a waiting list. People with private health insurance have their surgery on average 100 days quicker than those in the public system.

“While the public health system does a fantastic job looking after acute or urgent medical issues, it struggles to keep up with elective demand. We’ve all seen stories in the media about Kiwis waiting for surgery, often living in pain and discomfort.

“Obviously more Kiwis are concerned about this and see the value of using the private sector for their healthcare. This also has flow-on benefits for the wider health system in that it reduces the number of people waiting for treatment in the public sector – meaning greater access for everyone,” he said.

Southern Cross paid 3.1 million claims totalling $861 million (GST inclusive) last financial year – approximately 71% of New Zealand’s health insurance claims. Along with surgical procedures, this included 428,000 specialist consultations, 650,000 prescriptions and 726,000 GP visits.

Further information can be found in the 2016 Annual Report - Summary.