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Health insurers boost premium income amid rising claims

Premium incomes for health insurers rose last year as the rising cost of healthcare pushed up claims by policy holders.

Friday, June 26th 2009, 9:00AM

by Paul McBeth

Total lives covered increased by 5700 in the year ended March 31, while premium income rose 5.9% to $838 million, according to Health Funds Association of New Zealand. Total claims paid by health insurers climbed by 12.9% to a record $712 million. 

"With claims paid of $712 million this year, and over half of elective surgery funded by health insurers, the health insurance sector already makes a significant contribution and helps to free up resources in the public sector," said executive director Roger Styles in a statement. The boost in policy uptake "shows people are valuing the certainty of health insurance and the benefits it brings, especially in uncertain economic times."  

The Organisation for Economic Development recommended a greater role for private health insurers in its report on New Zealand earlier this year, with some 33% of New Zealanders have health policies, and less than a quarter of those aged over 65 covered. 

"New Zealand still lags the OECD average in terms of private sector contribution (in health), and there is plenty of scope for growing the contribution health insurance makes in the future," Styles said. 

HFANZ put the increase in claims down to rising costs of healthcare, more people using their insurance when they receive treatment, and improved access to new treatments.

The association's membership is made up of AIG Life, ING Life, EBS Health Care, Accuro Health Insurance, Manchester Unity Friendly Society, Police Health Plan, Southern Cross Healthcare, Sovereign Assurance, TOWER Health and Life and Union Medical Benefits Society.


Paul is a staff writer for Good Returns based in Wellington.

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