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New Zealanders Urged To Think About Their Healthcare Early

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
New Zealanders Urged To Think About Their Healthcare Early

New Zealanders are finding out the hard way about the high cost of healthcare.

Figures from not-for-profit health insurer Southern Cross Health Society show that 24% of adult members on individual health insurance policies have one or more pre-existing medical condition listed on their membership certificate.

This means signs or symptoms of the condition existed or treatment had been sought prior to signing up for health insurance.

Some of the most common pre-existing conditions can develop to require high-cost surgical or diagnostic treatment, such as back and knee pain, varicose veins, and high cholesterol. Orthopaedic and cardiac surgeries in particular can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Conditions that can cause financial hardship are not just limited to older age groups. Thousands of members in their 30s have listed knee or back problems as a pre-existing condition. Keyhole knee surgery can cost up to $5,000 while spinal surgeries can exceed $50,000, depending on complexity.

Southern Cross Health Society CEO Peter Tynan said the odds of needing expensive surgical treatment as we age are high, with one in three Southern Cross members aged 65 and over claiming for elective surgery last year.

However, the need for surgery is also significant in younger age groups. In 2010, 8% of members in their 20s and 11% of those in their 30s made a surgical claim.

"These figures should sound a warning for those in their 20s and 30s who are yet to insure or set aside funds for their healthcare," said Tynan.

"When you're young and healthy it's easy to think 'I'll deal with it later'. But by the time certain medical conditions develop it is too late to get health insurance to cover them - much like trying to get car insurance after an accident." "It's a very risky strategy to presume that you won't develop medical problems, or that if you do, the public system will be able to provide the healthcare you want when you want it.

"Without the means to access private treatment, your capacity to work, travel, care for your family or participate in activities could be significantly diminished while you wait. If waiting isn't an option, the bills can quickly run into the tens of thousands."

To manage rising treatment costs, the Southern Cross Health Society has recently placed greater focus on growing its Affiliated Provider programme. The programme sees the Society form agreements with facilities, surgeons and specialists to perform certain procedures at agreed prices.

In the last three years, Southern Cross has seen its members' surgical claims increase by 25% or $103 million.

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