You might be surprised to know that more than a million Kiwis have Health insurance.
While public healthcare is provided free-of-charge to citizens, permanent residents and work visa holders (with two or more years) in New Zealand, the time to access healthcare services can be stretched out to months, and in some cases, longer than a year. Especially if the condition you are seeking treatment for is not life threatening i.e. elective treatment.
Data from the NZ Ministry of Health (October 2021) show that nationally there are more than 32,000 “patients waiting longer than required timeframe for their first specialist assessment” and more than 22,000 “patients given a commitment to treatment but not treated within the required timeframe”.
This long wait time to access public healthcare services is part of the reason why so many have chosen to purchase Health insurance in New Zealand that offers much quicker and more comprehensive access to medical services through private healthcare providers.
Yes, if you can afford health insurance it brings you peace of mind knowing you have much faster and more comprehensive healthcare options available to you.
Read about the cost of health insurance below.
Speed is one reason to purchase health insurance so you can skip the long wait times and get in front of a medical specialist to be diagnosed and treated. When you are feeling unwell, an extra day of waiting or being in limbo will seem much longer and for some unbearable.
The cost of treatment is another key reason health insurance is popular. If you opt to go private for your medical care, the cost can be expensive.
Southern Cross shares that costs of some common procedures:
Breast cancer surgery is $6,500 to $20,000
Tonsil removal is $4,000 to $7,000
Knee replacement is $23,000 to $28,000
Colonoscopy is $1,500 to $3,500
Heart valve replacement surgery is $63,000 to $81,000
Another good reason for health insurance is that it can provide access to expensive and newer treatment that the public healthcare system (Pharmac) does not cover.
One well known example is the powerful cancer treatment drug Keytruda. It is expensive and can set patients back over $100,000. Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers and is the number one killer for the past 50 years in NZ as reported by Cancer Research Trust. This is higher than breast cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer combined. However, Keytruda is not funded by Pharmac. Lung cancer patients have to pay for this life saving treatment for themselves.
Pharmac or Pharmaceutical Management Agency is the New Zealand government entity that is responsible for deciding which medicines and pharmaceutical products are to be subsidised.
Pharmac is given a budget each year (roughly $1B in 2020) and needs to decide which medicines to fund. Currently it funds more than 1,000 different medicines. Everytime you pick up a prescription and if it is free or heavily discounted, that is thanks to Pharmac.
Do not confuse Pharmac with Medsafe (NZ Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority). While Pharmac looks after the budget and decides what medicines to fund, Medsafe is the government agency tasked with investigating and approving medicines for use in New Zealand. They make sure it is safe and effective for use.
The cost of health insurance depends on a number of factors such as:
If you smoke or not (smokers pay more, sometimes a lot)
Generally the older you are and if you have existing health conditions or if you smoke, the more you will pay. Females also pay more than males. The type and level of cover will also affect pricing. You can expect that a more comprehensive cover with higher benefits and limits will cost more money.
We take a look at average cost of health insurance across different age groups:
In your 20s, you can expect to pay on average $60 a month ($700 a year)
In your 30s, you can expect to pay on average $73 a month ($880 a year)
In your 40s, you can expect to pay on average $100 a month ($1,200 a year)
In your 50s, you can expect to pay on average $160 a month ($1920 a year)
Relative to the cost of some medical procedures, the agony and frustration of waiting to access healthcare services and getting access to expensive treatments, many Kiwis are taking up health insurance.
If you think the cost is too expensive for your budget, read on to find out how you can save money on health insurance.
Health insurance can get expensive. Especially as we grow older, the premiums start to increase.
Here are a few ways to save on your health insurance while still keeping it in place to protect you from expensive medical bills, provide quicker access to healthcare services and a wider range of treatment:
Choose to add or increase your excess. Many health insurance policies will offer customers the choice to take out an excess. This is the amount you would pay first before the insurance cover kicks in. Often offered as $500, $1000, $2000 or more. How it works is for example, if your medical treatment/surgery bill cost $5,000 and your selected excess was $500, then you’d pay $500 and the insurance company will cover the rest which is $4,500. In our comparison, you can save between 10% to 50% depending on the excess selected. The higher the excess, the more you save.
Check if you have a workplace scheme. Increasingly, employers are offering their staff discounted or free health insurance benefits. If you’re new to a company, there could even be an offer to cover any pre-existing conditions. This is a very valuable offer as insurers will typically not cover any pre-existing conditions on health insurance. Look at your company’s intranet for more information or check with your HR team.
Compare across health insurers. As with anything, it usually pays to compare your health insurance. There can be quite a big price difference for similar covers between insurance companies. In New Zealand, there are more than a handful of health insurers you can check out so either take the time or connect with an expert adviser to help compare for you. Quashed can connect you with an adviser for free. Sign up and click Get Advice, and pick a time that works for you. It’s quick and easy.
Consider a lower tier cover or losing some add-ons. Most health insurers will offer multiple levels of cover. For example, Southern Cross offers Wellbeing One, Wellbeing Two and UltraCare options. Price increases as the cover level increases. You may find that the lower tier covers you for enough. Check with your insurance adviser or the health insurance company to find out more. Removing add-ons is another way to save you money. Most health insurers offer add-ons to their plans that can cover the range from visits to GPs, nutritionists, chiropractors, physiotherapy and even the dentists and optometrist. However, these are nice-to-haves and you may not be using them enough to justify the cost of paying for it.
Taking out health insurance for your kids can have a number of benefits.
The obvious one being that they too will be able to access private healthcare and protect you financially from having to pay for expensive medical bills if they suffer a medical condition or event.
The other key benefit is that your child will be able to continue their policies in the future without having any issues/conditions that crop up along the way excluded from a claim.
For example, if your child injured their knee while playing sports in their teens and they don’t have insurance in place, chances are that their knee injury could be excluded if they do decide to take up health insurance in future. Whereas if you had health insurance in place already, they will continue to have cover if they decided to carry on with their policy in future.
If you as a parent have existing health insurance, most insurers will provide the option to add your child to your policy. With Southern Cross, you can add a child to your cover for approximately $10-20 a month.
Accuro looks to be the only insurer in New Zealand that offers parents the option to purchase for their kids without having one themselves. The KidSmart plan will cost roughly $30 per month ($360 a year) and adding Specialist cover will cost an extra $10 a month.
You have a number of ways to purchase health insurance and a number of options to choose from.
While Southern Cross is a popular option, they are not the only providers of Health insurance. AIA, Accuro, nib, Partners Life, and Unimed are a few others you can purchase cover from.
Some insurers have online systems where you can get a quote and purchase health insurance by doing it yourself. Southern Cross and Accuro are examples of this. For other health insurers, you will need to get a quote through an insurance adviser.
Most insurance advisers do not charge and offer their services for free. Do ask. They are usually paid by the insurer if and when you make a purchase through them. You can connect with an expert insurance adviser on Quashed for free. Book a time by clicking on Get Advice after signing up.
Purchasing through an adviser will usually mean that they can help you to shop around, and the good ones will know which policies are best depending on your needs. Saving you time and money. However, find an adviser that you are comfortable with and do ask all the questions you have. Feel free to switch advisers and you shouldn't feel pressured.
If your employer offers health insurance benefits (free or discounted), get in touch with HR and they will be able to help you access it. Read more about this under “How do I save money on health insurance”.
Finding the best health insurance can be different for each of us.
For some, it’s the cheapest health insurance policies but for others it is the most comprehensive when it comes to benefits and limits.
If you are looking for the cheapest health insurance, read below “Cheapest health insurance” to find out how much price difference we found when comparing between different health insurance providers. To get an estimate of how much you would pay for health insurance, read “How much is health insurance in New Zealand above to find out”.
If you are looking for the most comprehensive health insurance, here are some key benefits and limits to consider:
Non-Pharmac benefit. Generally, this means that the health insurance policy will cover medicines that are not funded by Pharmac (read “What is Pharmac and Medsafe”). This could be expensive and newer medicines such as Keytruda for cancer treatment. Covers that offer this are usually more expensive, but could be what you are looking for when it comes to having access to a wider and more comprehensive range of treatment options. Check that the limits are high enough to provide value with this benefit.
Diagnostic tests benefit. Most policies will offer this however some with lower limits and more restrictions. For example, Southern Cross Wellbeing cover offers up to $60,000 per claim year on this benefit whereas the more comprehensive Southern Cross UltraCare cover takes that all the way to $100,000 per claim year. The more affordable Wellbeing option also has restrictions that the medical tests must be carried out at an Affiliated Provider and it has to be performed within 6 months of the related eligible surgery.
Other additional benefits. More comprehensive policies tend to have other side benefits such as:
Allowance for transportation and accommodation allowances for parent/guardian/support person
Post surgery rehabilitation benefits e.g. physiotherapy, home nursing, etc
Cover while in Australia
Typically the higher tier covers offered by health insurers will offer more comprehensive benefits and higher limits.
For example, Southern Cross’ UltraCare provides more benefits and higher limits compared to their Wellbeing range of covers. For Accuro, SmartCare+ is more comprehensive compared to SmartCare. For nib, their Premium is more comprehensive when compared to Standard. For the more comprehensive cover, you can expect to pay anywhere from 5% more to 3x more than the lower tier cover.
When it comes to limits on benefits, higher is not always better for some. It gets to the point where it becomes irrelevant. For example, the surgery limit on the policy is $300,000 on the lower tier policy versus $500,000 on the top tier policy. While it sounds like it is more comprehensive, it will be difficult to find surgeries that cost more than $300,000. Southern Cross shared that the most expensive surgeries that were claimed on in 2021 was roughly $220,000 for spinal fusion.
On the other hand, some benefit limits are important. For example, some covers provide up to $10,000 a year on non-Pharmac cancer treatment. However, with the cost of non-Pharmac cancer drugs like Keytruda costing $8,000 for three weekly infusions, the $10,000 cover does not offer much value.
If you need help finding the best health insurance, get in touch with an expert adviser that will be able to point out the differences and understand your needs to help you find the most suitable cover. Chat with an expert adviser on Quashed for free.
In our search for the cheapest health insurance, we searched across multiple health insurance providers and compared their base policies for the same age, gender and smoker status.
We found that the price difference on health insurance between the cheapest and most expensive was roughly 30-40%. In some cases, the difference was 50%.
One example is the cheapest premiums we found for a 25 year old non-smoking male was $527 from Southern Cross and the most expensive was Partners Life at $874. A price difference of $347 a year (or 66% more).
When it comes to finding the cheapest health insurance, taking the time to research and compare, or having an insurance adviser do it for you and find you the cheapest policy can save you typically $200-300 a year.
Remember to compare not only the prices but the benefits of the policy so you get a good understanding in some cases of why you might want to pay more for a particular policy.
Comparing health insurance, as with any other insurance policies, takes time and effort. However, we recommend comparing policies as it can not only save you money (hundreds of dollars a year in many cases, some thousands of dollars). If you need help, get in touch with an insurance adviser. You can connect with an insurance expert for free on Quashed.
You can compare health insurance based not only on price but also on the level of cover it offers. Read “Cheapest health insurance” and “Best health insurance” to learn more about how you can compare the different health insurance policies and what to expect in terms of price differences and how the benefits are different across policies.
Most health insurance will offer some level of cancer treatment. To be sure what these are, look into the policy details or have a chat with an insurance adviser that can help.
With more comprehensive covers, which you would pay more for, it could provide you with access to non-Pharmac cancer medicines such as Keytruda which is known for its effectiveness in treating cancer. However, these medicines are expensive and can set patients back over $100,000.
Consider health insurance for you and your kids if you can afford it
Check to see if your employer provides free or discounted health insurance
Review your exclusions or loadings on your policy yearly
Don’t switch policies just based on price without knowing how it impacts your cover
Store you health policy on Quashed so it's easy to manage and review yearly