Columnist Kyle MacDonald has an ethical objection to private health insurance.
Like many of us, he is frustrated that the public health system does not seem to be able to keep up with the funding demands generated by the healthcare we increasingly require and the constant pressure on DHB's to do more with less.
Like it or not, private health insurance is a totally rational response to a problem that will
always be with us – that advances in healthcare treatment will always outstrip our capacity
to pay for them.
The more people who take responsibility for their own health through private health insurance, the more the burden on the public health system is reduced.
That's not a criticism of the public health system, or of health policy enacted by serial governments. It's simply a fact that as the New Zealand population continues to grow as well as age, there is increasing demand for Government health expenditure which simply is not sustainable under the current funding model in the long term.
We are all are faced with the same challenge – we're living longer, which is a good thing, but the cost of keeping ourselves healthy while we age is growing rapidly – and it's putting pressure on finances.
The Government, District Health Boards, the Accident Compensation Corporation, health professionals and of course Kiwi household budgets are all feeling the pinch of the growing cost and frequency of medical treatment.
Keeping Kiwis healthy currently accounts for about 21 per cent of Government spending. This represents around 9.5 per cent of GDP at around $16 billion per year, with estimations that this will grow to at least $18 billion by 2022.
How can we reduce this growing burden, which is a pretty damning legacy to leave to future generations? Increasing taxes for all Kiwis, many of whom are already struggling to meet day to day costs is not realistic.
We are keen to ensure the healthcare system is financially sustainable and fair. So why not
encourage those who can afford to help fund their own healthcare to do so?
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Health insurance today is as affordable as it's ever been, thanks to a very competitive
market, so it makes sense for those with the financial means to do so, to support their own lifetime costs, leaving more in the public purses to support those with low incomes.
The fact is, the more people who take responsibility for their own health through private
health insurance, the more the burden on the public health system is reduced. That may
not be the only solution to the challenge of sustainability of our public health system, but it certainly should be considered.
• Rob Hennin is chief executive of nib – NZ's second largest private health insurer