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There seems to be a lot of confusion out there around health insurance – not so much around providers, or even product. More around, with NZ’s world-class FREE public health system, do you really need health insurance at all? If so, how do you get the best of both worlds – making the most of public and covering off private healthcare?

Good questions! And here’s how.

The Public vs Private Healthcare Decision

We do have good public healthcare in this country, but it is under stress, even moreso with the recent global pandemic. The best way to get the best cover is to get the best of both worlds, public and private.

  • Use the good public health system for acute health needs, life’s random, unpredictable misfortunes that need immediate attention – that skiing leg break, the bus that came out of nowhere and knocked you down, etc
  • Go private as a matter of choice – anything elective, surgery-wise – i.e. something necessary and expensive, is where you want private cover:
    • You get faster access to treatment, and treatment where and when you want it
    • You get access to non-PHARMAC-funded medicines, opening up options that the public system cannot offer, or afford to – some cancer treatment courses are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, making them out of the reach of most people. Not, though, if you have comprehensive cover.

OK, I’m on board – how do I structure it?

There are a couple of things to watch out with when looking at getting Health Insurance, the main one being to focus on the “big stuff”. You don’t insure your car in case you might need to replace the wing mirror one day…and you certainly don’t insure the wing mirror and leave out the engine. Right? To explain, then:

  • Insurance is about covering risks you cannot ordinarily cover yourself. We strongly recommend, then, that you avoid what we call “dollar swapping”
    • If you can afford day-to-day costs such as GP visits, basic dental consults and routine eyewear treatments, don’t seek out health insurance to pick up the tab
    • Instead, think about the, hopefully, never-to-happen-but-you-want-to-be-covered-if-they-do costs of significant surgeries, or cancer treatments. Something with a cost in the tens or hundreds of thousands? That’s when you want solid health insurance cover to cover the majority of costs

A final thought? Don’t wait! We don’t want to panic you, but with health cover, probably more than any other type of insurance, the best time to start is now. (Well, yesterday, ideally, but even we can’t turn back time 😊).

Let’s be frank – the older you are the more health issues you are likely to face. And with pre-existing conditions not being covered by providers (that’s just how it is), you want to get good health cover underway when you’re condition-free, to ensure the best cover, and the greatest peace of mind, down the track.

The type of cover you get plays a huge part in what you’ll pay, so think carefully, and make full use of an expert adviser, to help you make those difficult dollar decisions.

Dominic Bish

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