Co-author: Michelle Norton
More than one million New Zealanders – approximately 1. 4 million according to the Health Funds Association of New Zealand (HFANZ) – already have a health insurance policy. That figure is nothing to sneeze at. But it also means the majority of New Zealanders are not covered by health insurance. While there isn’t data on the exact reasons why so many Kiwis forego health insurance, cost will clearly be a major factor, and Canstar understands that the terminology involved can be confusing, too. So, to help make things a bit clearer, we’ve put together a guide to the different categories of health insurance, as well as what else to consider when selecting a health insurance provider.
The long wait for non-urgent healthcare
As we mentioned earlier, New Zealanders are in a pretty fortunate position when it comes to accessing healthcare, including treatment for serious illness and emergencies. However, sufferers of non-urgent health conditions often face a long wait on public healthcare lists.
While these conditions might not be classified as needing urgent attention, they can still cause serious pain and discomfort. Non-urgent treatments include hip and knee replacements, cardiac procedures, colonoscopies and cataract removal. Going without treatment for these conditions can hugely impact quality of life, which is what makes having health insurance so important.
Three main types of health insurance:
There are three main types of health insurance to choose from:
- Comprehensive: This includes cover for both major surgery and day-to-day medical expenses.
- Major medical: Major medical policies are the most popular, accounting for around 69% of all policies, according to the HFANZ. These typically cover only health conditions that require surgical treatment and related expenses. This means you still pay for day-to-day costs, such as visits to the doctor and prescription charges.
- Minor medical: Only around 3% of New Zealanders who have health insurance have this type of policy. If you’re considering this type of policy, it’s a good time to find out more about whether policies have an “upgrade path”, so you can add on surgical cover in the future.
A word of caution, though. A comprehensive policy from one company may have very different coverage, limits and wording from another, even though it may also be classed as a comprehensive policy. Health insurers may offer add-ons for services, such as diagnostic, optical or dental cover. Make sure you read the fine print of the product disclosure statement and that you understand what you are (and aren’t) covered for.
What else should you consider with health insurance?
While deciding on the correct type of cover is key, you should also choose a value-for-money policy with a provider that delivers a product that suits your lifestyle. It’s important to remember that price is only one piece of the puzzle when selecting a product and provider, and is not always a measure of how suitable a policy is for you. You don’t want to be left high and dry if you do end up getting sick!
This is why Canstar surveys New Zealanders on their level of satisfaction with health insurance providers in the market. To see how health insurers stack up, make sure you take a look at Canstar’s customer satisfaction ratings for health insurance.
Other cover for your health
Health insurance isn’t the only insurance policy that potentially offers some form of financial safety net if you become sick. Others include critical illness, disability insurance, income protection and mortgage protection insurance.
Briefly, these policies cover:
• Critical illness, also known as trauma insurance, pays a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with an illness listed in the policy, such as cancer or heart disease.
• Disability insurance covers you if you’re temporarily or permanently disabled through accident or illness.
• Income protection insurance pays a weekly or monthly sum, which is usually a percentage of your income if you can’t work due to illness.
• Mortgage protection insurance is similar to income protection, but usually only covers your mortgage payments.
To find out more about health insurers in New Zealand, check out the health insurance section of the Canstar website.