Bad backs are behind the Bay of Plenty's most common health insurance claims, new figures reveal.
The cost of spinal surgery health insurance claims paid out by Southern Cross Health Society last year in the Bay reached $93,000 - the largest amount of money paid for a singular ailment.
There was $55,000 paid for cardiac surgery, the second-highest claim, and $46,000 for colon surgery, the third highest.
Southern Cross chief executive Peter Tynan said the costs demonstrated what a valuable safety net health insurance could be.
"No one wants to be ill but, if the unexpected happens and you need timely access to treatment, it can be very comforting to have the financial aspect taken care of," he said.
Nationally, spinal surgery reached costs up to $160,000 and larynx removal reached $100,000.
People receiving the top ten highest claim payments were aged from 64 to 76 years.
Mr Tynan said it was easy for young and healthy people to think "I'll deal with it later" but by the time medical conditions developed, it was too late for health insurance to cover them.
Figures also revealed it was not just the older generation needing help.
Mr Tynan said people aged under 30 put in a high number of claims for tonsillectomies and dental procedures. For women aged 20 to 39, endometriosis surgery was common and after the age of 50, hip and knee replacements, cataract extraction and skin lesion removals were in high demand.
A Southern Cross survey last year revealed 79 per cent of New Zealanders thought they would have to pay for some of their elective healthcare in retirement. But only one in five had started saving and many thought savings of less than $10,000 would be sufficient.
Surgery costs for knee replacement, cardiac bypass and radiation therapy ranged between $19,000 to $50,000.
"In the half year ending December 2012, Southern Cross paid out 88 cents in claims for every premium dollar received," Mr Tynan said.