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Let’s get better with health insurance

As a newspaper serving the community, we often hear complaints of delays in accessing the public health system, even for life-threating diseases and medical conditions. While we have little doubt the Government of the day does its best to provide early treatment for those in urgent need, public health services are under such pressure that long wait lists are inevitable.

While the share of the health sector in New Zealand’s annual budget continues to soar (currently at about $14 billion), not everyone, save for those in emergency, can obtain health services easily.

Private health care is faster, effective and comes with a number of options, with specialists and surgeons available for most ailments.

But such care is not cheap – unaffordable by most people.

The answer therefore is health insurance.

Health insurance has always been a subject of debate in many advanced countries of the world. In the US, the individual ‘mandate’ or requirement to buy health insurance has been the most controversial part of a bitterly controversial law.

The US Supreme Court’s decision on June 28, 2012 to uphold it was historic.

According to critics, the reality of the mandate fails to live up to the rhetoric.

The penalty for not buying insurance is less a stick than a noodle.

The fine is fairly small, and those who do not pay it face no further punishment. Arguably much more important, in purely practical terms, was the Supreme Court’s ruling on Medicaid.

The insurance sector in New Zealand offers a number of options, suitable to most income groups, if only people would be willing to make minor sacrifices to put away small sums of money every week or month towards premium.

There are also many professionally qualified and experienced agents and advisors of Indian origin who will be able to suggest the best options possible to suit all income groups.

There is a need for a paradigm shift in our attitude and reduce our dependence on the public system.

We know that our suggestion would invite severe criticisms from a number of readers, saying that it is the duty of the Government to provide quick, reliable, efficient and comprehensive health services free of cost.

“We are taxpayers and entitled to good service,” they would say.

They are of course right.

But it is time we thought of alternatives.

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