Iwi to provide free private health insurance to members

8:00 pm on 5 March 2018
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Ngati Whātua ki Ōrākei Trust. (file) Photo: SUPPLIED

Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is taking the health of its people into its own hands by providing free universal private health insurance for its members.

The iwi, which has a commercial portfolio of more than $1 billion, wants to lift Māori health statistics by improving the wellbeing of its people.

Joining the scheme is free for registered members of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei who live in New Zealand - and all of their insurance premiums and any payable excess will be paid for by the iwi.

The iwi currently has 4000 members and it is expected 70 percent of members will sign up.

If all 4000 members sign up for the insurance it will be a $3m investment for the iwi.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei iwi member Selwyn Teua said she has elderly members of her whānau who are being let down by the public health system.

Around 250 kaumātua are currently registered with the iwi.

"For kaumātua who have hip problems, sore legs and things like that ... they're having to wait much longer to assess their health."

Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei has teamed up with private health and medical insurance provider NIB.

Under the NIB insurance scheme, iwi members will have quicker access to private hospitals and help with the costs of non-urgent medical procedures.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei chairperson Marama Royal said she knows all too well the over-representation of Māori in negative health statistics.

She said the Auckland health system was at breaking point, so the hāpu has taken its own stand.

"We wanted to ensure that we were improving the health and wellbeing of our whānau right from our babies through to our kaumātua."

However, the public health system still has a major role to play in providing health services, she said.

"This is not about snubbing any of the public health system this is about giving opportunities to our whānau."

The insurance package will cover specialists and day-to-day medical costs such as GP, dentist and physio visits.

It also fully subsidises a base level of hospital and surgical cover and the excess is covered by the iwi.

NIB chief executive Rob Hennin said he could see the model being embraced by iwi around the country.

"This example while it's the first of its kind in New Zealand I'm sure there will be many others to follow."

In the next three weeks weeks, the iwi will present the insurance scheme on a roadshow to hāpu members from Kaitaia to Christchurch.