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Not-for-profit insurer Accuro celebrates 50 years in business

Accuro began its life in August 1971 as the Hospital Services Welfare Society providing health insurance exclusively to hospital staff.

Tuesday, May 18th 2021, 3:48PM 1 Comment

by Matthew Martin

In fact, it was the hospital boards who asked for the society to be created and its first constitution was approved by the Director-General of Health, before its first board meeting on August 20.

Many things have changed since then - did you know its original offering cost just 10 cents a week and was free for students?

Some of the original benefits of membership were $5 per week sick pay, $100 bereavement grant and a $5 birth benefit.

In 1991 the society was renamed the Health Services Welfare Society and became fully independent from the hospital boards although membership was still limited to those working in hospitals.

Not long after, in 1993, the society released its Advanced Plan, a primary care product for everyday health expenses coating members between $2.80 and $9.35 per week.

1994 saw the start of a long-running relationship with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. Seeing the value of the society's products, the organisation agreed to endorse and promote it, resulting in a formal partnership in 1996 that would run all the way through until 2019.

That product included one year of free primary health insurance for nurses and district health board staff.

The society also launched its first hospital and surgical plan in 1994 and partnered with National Insurance Life and Health (now Tower Insurance) and Crombie Lockwood Financial Services, to deliver this more complicated type of health insurance.

That same year, the society started to consider other ways of delivering health insurance and had been approached by two Crown health enterprises, the replacement structure of hospital boards, who wanted to subsidise membership for their staff.

Part of this negotiation was whether pre-existing conditions could be covered if the entire organisation signed up for health insurance and was the catalyst for developing a group health insurance product.

1997 was when it sealed its first group sale and when it officially expanded its membership outside of the health care sector, initially opening up to the New Zealand Electrical Institute and then becoming the preferred health benefit provider for the Christchurch Polytechnic.


HSWS/Accuro timeline

- HSWS formed in August 1971 with 8000 members

- HSWS becomes independent of hospital boards in 1991 with 10,400 members

- HSWS Advanced Plan launched April in 1993

- HSWS Hospital Plan launched with Crombie Lockwood and National Insurance Life and Health (later Tower Insurance) in 1994

- HSWS partnership with NZ Nurses Organisation in 1996

- HSWS moves into open up cover to other organisations outside of the health sector in 1997 with 21,600 members

- HSWS sells 600 hospital plans in less than two years by the end of 1998

- HSWS launched its own health insurance cover, ending its partnership with Crombie Lockwood and Tower in 2001

- HSWS rebrands to Accuro in 2007

- Accuro introduces an online quote and application system in 2009

- Accuro pays out $10.8 million in claims and has 21,600 members in 2011

- Accuro launces HUGO, the first online underwriting system in the industry in 2017

- Accuro reaches a membership of 28,337 by later 2017

- Brand refresh in 2018 with 30,298 members

- Accuro launches new products including its Mental Health Navigator in 2019

- Accuro celebrates 50 years in the industry reaching a membership of 31,530 in 2021


In 2001, things were about to change significantly as the society decided to no longer use intermediaries to underwrite and sell products and instead chose to launch its own hospital and surgical plan - Major Medical.

The change to produce its own products while opening up to more New Zealanders than just the healthcare sector meant the Health Service Welfare Society name was no longer reflective of what the society was.

So, in 2007, membership was opened up to all Kiwis and the society rebranded as Accuro, which means "taking care" in Latin.

Now anyone could gain the health insurance benefits that had given the society such popularity within the health care sector.

Being smaller than other insurers meant Accuro could benefit by being able to innovate and move quickly and again in 2007, it was the first insurer in New Zealand to introduce non-smoker and healthy weight discounts.

Recognising the importance of digital channels, Accuro was also the first health insurer in New Zealand to offer online quotes and applications.

In that same vein, the 2017 launch of its online underwriting platform (HUGO) made them the first health insurer in the world to offer instant online cover.

HUGO won Accuro the Innovation of the Year Award from the Australian and New Zealand Insurance Industry.

In 2018 Accuro launched Active Benefits, a range of free initiatives designed to support and enhance members’ health and wellbeing.

Benefits included Best Doctors, giving members access to a world of medical experts and second opinions, the online Health Hub which provides free health support and resources to members, and a new Mental Health tool with quick and easy access to mental health diagnosis and professional support.

It’s been 50 years and although a lot has changed, Accuro remains a not-for-profit health insurer.

Former leaders of Accuro. From left, Lance Walker 2020 - present, Geoff Annals 2013 to 2019, Bruce Morrison 2010 to 2013 and Dragan Radic 2005 to 2008.

Tags: Accuro health insurance

« Accuro invests in new digital techDealer group to pay commissions direct to members »

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Comments from our readers

On 18 May 2021 at 6:21 pm Brian Klee said:
Congratulations to arriving at that milestone.

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