Monday 21st February 2011 6 Comments
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Health insurers want to see a discussion about ways to encourage greater self-provision in health care.
The call comes after a year in which the number of New Zealanders covered by health insurance fell by 10,000 to 1.38 million.
Total claims rose $60 million from 2009 to $825 million in 2010, while premium income rose $87 million to $962 million.
Health Funds Association of New Zealand executive director Roger Styles said public health spending was growing at double the rate of private health insurance spending, which was the opposite direction to other countries in the developed countries' organisation the OECD.
In 2008, the OECD average private contribution to health spending had been 28%, in Australia it had been 32%, and in this country the private contribution to total health spending dipped below 19.6%.
The gap between this country and the rest of the OECD had widened from 4.6% in 2001 to 8.2% by 2008, Styles said in the association's newsletter.
Between 2004 and 2010, the amount spent by the Government on health rose from $7.6 billion to $12.7 billion, an increase of 41% when adjusted for inflation.
In the same period, private health insurance premium income grew from $646 million to $918 million, an inflation adjusted increase of 20%.
"If this imbalance is left to continue, it would see New Zealand moving in the opposite direction to other OECD countries, at precisely the wrong time," Styles said.
"The twin forces of an aging population and global recession mean we have a small window of opportunity to explore policies which help move New Zealand towards a more balanced health system.
"Most OECD countries recognise there are merits in people making provision for their health care and actively encourage health insurance by a range of means, with various degrees of carrot and stick," Styles said.
"New Zealand is alone in not only being devoid of any incentive, but actively penalising those employers who fund a portion of health insurance costs for their employees.
"The time is right to have another look at how we can encourage greater self-provision in health care."
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