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Positive quarter for health insurance with heightened focus on wellness

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The number of New Zealanders covered by health insurance rose in the June 2019 quarter after a flat start to the year, bringing the total to 1.406 million Kiwis.

Releasing its latest statistics today, the Health Funds Association (HFANZ) said claims paid were up to $343 million for the quarter, an increase of 3.7 percent on the previous June. Claims paid for the year to June 30, 2019 totalled $1.335 billion, up 7.5 percent or $93 million on the June 2018 year.

HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said health insurance was more than just a product which provided peace of mind for those who took out policies. "Insurers are increasingly focusing on wellness initiatives which benefit those with health insurance, whether individually or through their employer."

HFANZ members Southern Cross, AIA and Accuro have all introduced wellness programmes recently that aim to promote healthy activities, provide support and resources, and reward members for taking care of their health.

Last month Southern Cross and Business NZ released their fourth biennial report into workplace wellness which found total investment in staff wellbeing by New Zealand businesses was an estimated $2.37 billion in 2018. Last year 63.3 percent of businesses with more than 50 staff provided training for managers to identify and manage stress in the workplace, compared with only 37.3 percent in 2014.

The 2019 Workplace Wellness Report found on average New Zealand businesses spent around $1500 per staff member annually on benefits to improve wellbeing. Southern Cross reported that after implementing its wellness programme for businesses, some clients had started offering staff additional sick days, a paid volunteer day, subsidised exercise, or flexible working arrangements, among other changes.

Mr Styles said the working-age population had accounted for the lion’s share of the growth in health insurance coverage over the past year. The 25-44 year age groups accounted for around 9000 lives covered out of the 11,700 added in the 12 months to the end of June, as interest continued to grow in employer-subsidised packages for staff and the country experienced general employment growth.

He said private health insurance had been funding more healthcare treatment in the past year, with the public sector plagued by industrial action and DHB funding shortfalls. Insurers were also funding increasingly more in the areas of diagnostics and imaging, cancer treatments and drugs, including drugs not funded by Pharmac.

The latest HFANZ statistics showed premium income for the quarter was up $10 million on the March quarter to $419 million. Annually, premium income rose $139 million or 9.4 percent to $1.622 billion.

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