The Cost Of Choice

19 December 2019 by Jena McKenzie in Health, Insurance

The Cost Of Choice

Do you really need medical insurance?

In New Zealand, a lot of us rely on the public health system for treatment. Why would we pay for medical insurance when our government can fund treatment for us?

One of my client’s was told by their doctor “There is no need for medical insurance”, I find it astounding that he would give this advice to a patient.

My friend Barbara has agreed to share her story below, which highlights the importance of having access to non-Pharmac medication.

Barbara’s Story

Barbara was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and given only 12 months to live. Chemotherapy was the only treatment available in the public system and she wanted to look for other options. She came across the non-Pharmac immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab. Luckily, she was eligible to begin treatment and an astonishing two years on, has just returned from a trip to Bali, is awaiting the arrival of her first granddaughter and is living a very active and fun life. Not many people being treated for stage 4 cancer could be enjoying their lives like Barbara is! And it’s all thanks to the access of non-Pharmac medicine.

The Cost

Despite the incredible results, Barbara’s treatment has been at a whopping personal cost of $100,000. How many people have that kind of money lying around? Even if you are fortunate enough to be a candidate for immunotherapy treatment, there are still significant ongoing costs to be factored in, such as CT scans every few months, administration of the drug, consultant fees; all of which can total thousands per month.

You’d have to be patient, lucky, rich or resourceful, and all while dealing with a life-threatening illness.

If Barbara had the right medical insurance in place, this would have all been covered and she could have got these results without the financial impact.


New Zealand is 19th out of 20 OECD countries for access to new medicines. When comparing with Australia in 2011-2017, New Zealanders are severely disadvantaged1.

Access to Non-Pharmac in New Zealand

Immunotherapy drugs are one of the many drugs that are not funded by our government and can only be accessed at personal cost or through selected medical insurers. The government has announced increased funding for non-Pharmac drugs, but we have a long way to go as New Zealand has fallen far below other countries in the OECD.

Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis can also be treated with non-Pharmac drugs, and could all be accessed with the help of medical insurance.

So, do you really need medical insurance? If you want access to medical solutions not provided by the public system, and you don’t have the cash to support those potential costs, then it’s worth a discussion with your financial adviser about the options. But remember – not all policies are created equal.

Given our limited health system in New Zealand, medical insurance has and will continue to help Kiwi’s access a greater range of medicines. Get the best treatment you and your family need, when you need it, without having to stress about costs.


Article by Jena McKenzie - Get In Touch


Disclaimer: This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking into consideration any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Any opinions contained in it are held by the author as at the report date and are subject to change without notice.


1. IQVIA Access to Medicines Report 2018 available from Medicines NZ 1 "I’m still here" Insights into living -and dying - with Advanced Breast Cancer in New Zealand 2

Article below from New Zealand Doctor [online] – 8th May 2019 - viewed 20 Nov 2019.

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