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By ROB STOCK – New Zealanders are paying more for common medical procedures than patients in other countries, according to a previously unpublished international comparison conducted by private health insurers.
The research on the comparative costs of procedures such as hip replacements and cataract removals was carried out last year by the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP) in a bid to support US President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.
The New Zealand figures were omitted, largely because such a small country was considered to have little relevance to the debate.
The Sunday Star-Times has obtained a copy of the report containing the New Zealand figures and they are likely to spark fierce debate over whether excess charges by some doctors here are contributing to medical inflation which is driving up health insurance premiums at an average of 9% a year.
The study, which was based on costs provided by governments and private health insurers and quotes all figures in US dollars, suggests that fees here for a hip replacement are $US3329 ($4726) compared to $US2410 in Australia.
The fee for cataract surgery in New Zealand was reported as $US1168, lower than in Australia, but far higher than higher-income countries such as Germany, France and Holland, and even higher than some doctors in the US.
As yet the report has not been circulated in New Zealand, so whether or not the comparisons are done on a like-for-like basis still has to be debated. Tom Sackville, the chief executive of IFHP, who visited New Zealand several years ago to promote greater government support for the private healthcare sector, was not available for comment.
The Sunday Star-Times understands the New Zealand figures were provided to the IFHP by Southern Cross, the nation’s largest health insurer with 60% market share and more than 840,000 policyholders.
Health insurers are struggling with the rising costs of such surgical procedures, but are not willing to publicly take on doctors and surgeons over their fees, pointing to the multiple causes of medical inflation, including the rise in the amount of elective surgery and constant medical advances.
Surgeons’ representatives say they have seen nothing to suggest New Zealand surgeons are earning over the odds internationally.
“To the best of my knowledge, no, we are not,” said Kim Miles, chief executive of the NZ Orthopaedic Association. Orthopaedic surgery fees had not been rising rapidly, he said.
“If anything, I would think surgeons’ fees have been voluntarily capped for four to five years. That would be my feeling.”

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 11th, 2010 at 9:59 am and is filed under Group Health Insurance, Health Insurance, Health Insurance Blogs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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