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Health coverage up - slightly

In tough economic times there is an expectation that health insurance coverage decreases – however the opposite is happening.

Thursday, October 23rd 2008, 8:10AM
The Health Funds Association says that coverage has shown resilience in the September quarter with modest growth in lives covered, despite deteriorating economic conditions.

It says health insurers recorded an extra 5500 lives covered in the three months to September 30, an increase of 0.4% bringing the total number of New Zealanders with health insurance to 1.395 million.

HFANZ executive director Roger Styles says there was an expectation of a reasonably flat quarter, following a slowdown in growth in the June quarter and the economy going into recession.

“The increase is a bit of a surprise,” he says.

The number of people taking out health insurance in the year to September was 13,500 higher than in the corresponding period last year.

The age bracket showing the biggest gains was in the 60-64 band.

Claims paid in the last year jumped 12.6% to $676 million.

Styles says tightening up of access to elective surgery in the public sector was a significant factor, leading to higher usage of the private sector. He also cited continued increases in healthcare costs which have been running ahead of general inflation rate in recent years.

Despite the increase in coverage this quarter, Styles says the immediate outlook remained relatively flat.

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