Subsidised model suggested

A KiwiHealth option is being promoted as a way of reducing pressure on the public health system. Photo: Getty Images
A KiwiHealth option is being promoted as a way of reducing pressure on the public health system. Photo: Getty Images
The Health Funds Association is considering ways to encourage employers and employees to adopt a more proactive and preventive approach to healthcare during the working years of the employee.

The association received a discussion paper from KPMG which highlighted significant health and broader benefits possible through increasing workers' access to employer-subsidised health insurance.

Association chairman Geoff Annals said the association commissioned the report to explore what might be feasible within the current framework and without requiring government subsidies.

One option was KiwiHealth, an umbrella name which would be adopted for public health insurance (PHI) polices from existing health insurance providers.

The approach was similar to that adopted for KiwiSaver, he said.

No government subsidies would be involved, he said.

While the initiatives relied on the Government endorsing a mandatory employer subsidy, the fiscal impact of the scheme should be neutral to the Crown.

A health workforce provided benefits to individuals as well as employers. KiwiHealth had been modelled on the basis employers offered a subsidy to their employees of up to $500 per year, should the employee wish to participate, Mr Annals said.

''There is a promising opportunity for private healthcare to contribute to better health outcomes through easier and faster access to elective services.''

All policies would need to cover major medical events at a minimum, including specialist appointments, advanced diagnostics and elective surgery, he said.

KiwiHealth was designed to utilise the current PHI system as far as possible, including major policy types.

It was hoped to avoid unnecessary administrative costs. Employers already offering PHI to employees would be able to continue their existing coverage and schemes, Mr Annals said.

Based on current research and initial economic modelling, the expected benefits of KiwiHealth included: improved access to health care for employees; reduced pressure on public health care; higher productivity and less absenteeism.

Research indicated privately funded elective services had significantly shorter waiting times than services funded publicly, he said.

Increased access to PHI would allow for increased access to elective care, potentially leading to a healthier workforce.

KiwiHealth would fund about 50,000 additional elective surgical procedures and between 45,000 and 70,000 ''other'' encounters a year by 2027 - of which some would directly substitute publicly-funded procedures and some would be additional.

Also, the social impact early detection and improved management of chronic disease had many non-financial benefits to families and societies, Mr Annals said.

Increased access to elective surgery meant early detection and intervention was more likely to occur.

''With the right preventive treatments, this has the potential to reduce the burden of ill health in future years.''

However, as with any policy initiative, there were some limitations needing further consideration, he said.

Those included the impact on individuals in part-time employment, those who were self-employed, or those performing non-market activities such as looking after children or the elderly.

''From an economic standpoint, the option of doing nothing and relying on publicly-funded health care simply ignores an already evident trend and shifts the financial burden to future generations,'' Mr Annals said.

Add a Comment