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Private Health Insurance Policy Holders on the Rise

There has been a remarkable increase in the membership of health insurance companies. The public hospital waiting list cuts is one of the major reasons for it//.

Southern Cross Healthcare, a major health insurance company in New Zealand, has enrolled around 7,500 new members to make a total of 808,000.

According to Claire Austin, Executive director of Umbrella group Health Funds Association, there has been a 1% increase in membership of health insurance companies in the last quarter. She says, "People are increasingly concerned about a lack of ability to access elective surgery from a health system significantly under pressure."

But, with the advent of a fringe benefit tax and rising premiums, the % of policyholders had fallen from 50 to 35. 1,00,000 members quit the Southern Cross Insurance policy in 2003, due to hike in the charges. Some of the members who retained their policy got a double premium especially the aged ones. Southern Cross announced a further hike due to an increase in the cost of surgery and the number of claim per member. Chief executive, Ian McPherson, reports that 29% of the members are above 65 years in age and undergo surgery every year.

Southern Cross Healthcare is a major health insurance company with 60% of the policyholders, Tower has 2,20,000 policyholders, Sovereign has 100,000 and UniMed with around 65,000.

Robin Booth, Canterbury District Health Board member, realized the difficulty of getting elective surgery and took out a private medical insurance of about $12 a week. He wanted the board to encourage people to take private policies, whoever could afford it.

Rising premium had made Joy Pipe, 72, quit her Insurance policy. Unfortunately, later. she was even cut off from public hospital waiting list. Two years back, she was able to move around freely, but since last year she is struggling to even walk about at home due to severe spinal deterioration and pain. This condition , spinal stenosis, is not treated in Canterbury's public hospitals. Ultimately, she had to remortgage her house to meet the surgery expenses.


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