Health insurance with a twist

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Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014

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Sovereign will effectively pay its customers' health insurance if they choose not to claim on a new policy and instead opt to use the public system.

The new benefit, a first in New Zealand, is part of a revamp of the country's biggest life insurer's health-insurance range.

Sovereign unveiled two new health policies at its SovNet Summit of insurance advisers yesterday.

The policies, Private Health Cover and Private Health Plus, will be available from September 1 and are designed to give customers fast access to private treatments such as diagnostic scans and surgical treatment, avoiding lengthy waiting times in the public health system.

If a policyholder opts to use the public system for a treatment that would have been covered by the policy, the following year's premium will be free, as long as the treatment required a stay in hospital of two nights or more.

The new policies also allow for higher excesses of up to $4000, in response to calls from older policyholders who are struggling to pay rising health-insurance premiums as the cost of treatment continues to race up faster than inflation.

Higher excesses result in lower premiums. Sovereign's chief officer for health business, Joyce Au-Yeung, said the new products were the result of a major review into New Zealand's health-insurance market that canvassed customers and advisers for their feedback as to what people wanted from private health cover.

"New Zealanders we spoke to told us they wanted simplicity, value and access to affordable health cover.

"The new policies also allow people to seek treatment in Australia. They could also go anywhere else in the world in the rare case that the wait for private treatment in New Zealand was longer than six months." Sovereign would also pay $30,000 a year towards treatment overseas if the same treatment were not available in New Zealand.

Some non-Pharmac cancer treatments are also covered, and to attract younger people, Private Health Plus offers loyalty benefits including a $750 a year contribution to pregnancy, maternity or infertility care after three years, and $500 for the customer's choice of health screening after three years and every three years subsequently.

There is a $300,000 a year limit for surgical treatment, and the same limit for cancer treatment. Fairfax NZ

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