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KiwiSaver approach to health insurance needed

KiwiSaver-style incentives to boost health insurance coverage would ease the burden on the public health system and help more New Zealanders get access to surgery, Health Funds Association says.

Wednesday, July 27th 2016, 1:04PM

by Susan Edmunds

New data shows thousands more people missed out on surgical assessments in the December quarter.

"Health has had massive funding injections from Government but the system can't cope by tax funding alone. People are falling through the cracks in the public system, while we have a private health insurance system which is massively underutilised, with just 29% of people covered," chief executive, Roger Styles said. 

He said fringe benefit tax should be removed for employers who subsidise health insurance cover for their staff.

Then further incentives could be considered. "We could look at some of the techniques used with KiwiSaver to build higher coverage among working New Zealanders."

Ministry of Health data showed more than 20,000 people had their surgical assessments declined, delayed or transferred in the last quarter of last year.

Styles said his research showed 280,000 people were waiting for surgery. "More and more people need surgery but our public system is stretching just to keep pace with growing demand, while less urgent cases have to wait longer and longer."

“It’s time for the Government to start making better use of private funding sources like health insurance, which has huge potential to relieve pressure on the public system. It currently contributes $1 billion annually to total health expenditure and has the capacity and ability to do much more. New Zealanders with health insurance gain prompt access to treatment when they needed it, with no wait for surgery.” 

In the last year, insurers’ healthcare claims rose by $54 million, mostly for elective surgery, Styles said.

Tags: health insurance

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