A two-decade partnership with Southern Cross has done nothing to dim the University of Canterbury's enthusiasm for its group health insurance scheme - in fact the relationship just keeps getting stronger.
The University of Canterbury has long been committed to the health and wellbeing of its staff, offering services such as discounted gym memberships, subsidised eye tests, free flu vaccinations and affordable health care. So it's no surprise that Southern Cross has been part of the mix for around 20 years, with a voluntary group health insurance scheme that provides discounted premiums for university employees.
"Ours is a large, diverse organisation with around 1,500 staff," says Amanda Derry, the University's Reward and Recognition Advisor. "We're pleased to offer them Southern Cross health insurance; it's a great investment in their wellbeing, and it gives them the flexibility to choose insurance plans that suit their needs and budgets. They can also have the premiums deducted straight from their salaries."
"We're pleased with the take-up: about 25 percent of the University's eligible staff are Southern Cross members, and many have insured their families too."
The University promotes the health insurance offer through a number of channels, including its website and intranet, staff induction programme, weekly newsletter and regular 'benefit days' attended by Southern Cross representatives.
"We're also seeing a lot of word-of-mouth recommendations," says Amanda. "It's an impressively effective mechanism for increasing Southern Cross membership."
Proving the point
One of those who's a passionate advocate of the Southern Cross scheme is Paul O'Flaherty, the University's Director of Human Resources. He has good reason: in the 17-odd years in which Paul has been a Southern Cross member (10 with the University), he, his wife Jane and four children have all needed surgery or other types of medical treatment. And since Southern Cross only charges premiums for the first two children, two of Paul's children are covered for free.*
"While our public health system is fantastic for emergencies, private health insurance comes into its own when you need elective treatment," he says. "Southern Cross has always provided us with a seamless, customer-friendly experience."
"We're a family that genuinely believes in the value of health insurance - I shudder to think how much it would have cost us to pay for everything otherwise."
Amanda reports similarly positive feedback from other staff in the Southern Cross scheme. "I haven't heard a negative word," she says. "They're all very happy with the service they receive from the Southern Cross team."
A growing partnership
In the past two decades, the University's partnership with Southern Cross has continued to develop.
The University recently worked with Southern Cross to implement Easy-claim at the University Pharmacy. Easy-claim is a convenient way for members (with the appropriate plan) to claim electronically on-the-spot for eligible products and services. The major benefit of Easy-claim is that members don't need to fill out claim forms or wait for refunds.
"We also recently conducted a 'health and lifestyle' survey of our staff, then used the results to develop a series of tailored wellness seminars," says Amanda. "These enabled us to provide our people with really useful information on ways to manage their health effectively."
Southern Cross also brought along their 'smoothie bikes' (stationary bikes with blenders) for an employee benefits day. The bikes - and resulting smoothies - were a real hit with staff. And from Amanda's perspective, the smoothie bikes were a fun and innovative way to engage with staff, and show that the University values their health.
Amanda says the University's very happy with Southern Cross and the group health insurance scheme. "They're great to work with," she says. "They provide useful and timely information and a responsive service to us and the people they insure, and are clearly keen to engage with us in initiatives like the wellness seminars and our employee benefits days. It's a good product and a very good business."
*One rate for children aged 0 to 21. Subject to standard annual premium changes. All family members must be on the same plan and with the same concessions.