Key Points:

New Zealanders are signing up health insurance policies at the rate of nearly 100 people a day.

In the December 2006 quarter, the number of lives covered by health insurance jumped 8400 to 1.37 million.

The total increase for the 2006 year was 15,500, according to the Health Funds Association of New Zealand (HFANZ).

"Older policyholders are keeping their cover, as they see what is happening with elective services. At the same time, younger age groups and families are increasingly looking to health insurance for peace of mind," said HFANZ executive director Claire Austin.

She agreed with Health Minister Pete Hodgson's recent comments that there would never be enough taxpayer money to fund all types of surgery that anyone may want to undertake.

Health insurers paid out $575 million in claims in the last year.

The trend was moving from away from comprehensive policies and towards major medical insurance.

The net 8400 increase in lives covered represents an increase of 12,900 people covered by major medical insurance and a reduction of 4500 having comprehensive insurance.

Major medical insurance now accounts for 845,700 of the 1.370 million lives covered, or 61.7 per cent of those covered by health insurance.

The greater number of people covered by health insurance helped spread risk and at the same time helped relieve pressure from the public system, Ms Austin said.

"We need to recognise that health insurance complements the public health system and look for more ways for the sectors to work more collaboratively for the benefit of all New Zealanders."