Starting in August 1971 as the Hospital Services Welfare Society, we provided health insurance exclusively to hospital staff. In fact, it was the hospital Boards who asked for the society to be created and our first constitution was approved by the Director General of Health, prior to our first Board meeting on 20th August.
Many things have changed since then (did you know that our original offering cost just 10c per week and free for students?), but right from the start we have always been focused on our member’s health and wellbeing. Some of the original benefits of membership were $5 per week sick pay, $100 bereavement grant and a $5 birth benefit.
In 1991 we renamed to the Health Services Welfare Society and became fully independent from the Hospital Boards, although membership was still limited to those working in the hospitals.
Not long after, in 1993, we released our Advanced plan, a primary care product for every day health expenses. It cost members between $2.80 and $9.35 per week.
1994 saw the start of a long running relationship with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO). Seeing the value of HSWS products, the organisation agreed to endorse and promote us. This resulted in a formal partnership in 1996 that would run all the way through until 2019 and included one year of free primary health insurance for nurses and district health board staff.
We also launched our first hospital and surgical plan in 1994. To deliver this more complicated type of health insurance, we partnered with National Insurance Life and Health (who later became Tower Insurance) and Crombie Lockwood Financial Services, who helped to create and sell the plan respectively.
The year that we launched the first hospital and surgical plan was also the year that we started to consider other ways of delivering health insurance. We had been approached by two crown health enterprises, the replacement structure to the Hospital Boards, who wanted to subsidise membership for their staff. Part of this negotiation was whether pre-existing conditions could be covered if the entire organisation signed-up for health insurance. This was the start of our thinking about developing a group health insurance product. Although discussion and thought to the idea had commenced, the first group health insurance scheme would not be sold until 1997.
1997 would be momentous for our first group sale and as we officially expanded our membership outside of the health care sector. Initially, we opened to the New Zealand Electrical Institute and then became the preferred health benefit provider for the Christchurch Polytechnic.
In 2001, things were about to change significantly as we decided to no longer use intermediaries to underwrite and sell our products and instead chose to launch our own hospital and surgical plan - Major Medical.
This change to produce our own products, whilst opening up to more New Zealanders than just the healthcare sector, meant that the Health Service Welfare Society name was now no longer reflective of who we were. In 2007, membership was opened to all Kiwis and we rebranded as Accuro, which means ‘taking care’ in Latin. It is a name that recognises we care about our Members’ welfare and wellbeing. Now anyone could gain the health insurance benefits that had given us such popularity within the health care sector.
Being smaller than other insurers has always given us the benefit of being able to innovate and move quickly. In 2007, we were the first insurer in New Zealand to introduce non-smoker and healthy weight discounts. Recognising the importance of digital channels, we were the first health insurer in New Zealand to offer online quotes and applications. In that same vein, the 2017 launch of our online underwriting platform (HUGO) made us the first health insurer in the world to offer instant online cover. HUGO won Accuro the Innovation of the Year Award from the Australian and New Zealand Insurance Industry.
Accuro has been ahead of general corporate insurers in many ways, always offering significant benefits in the welfare space such as the healthy living discount mentioned above and free health checks. We’re continuing to innovate and in 2018 we launched Active Benefits, a range of free initiatives designed to support and enhance our members’ health and wellbeing. Benefits included Best Doctors, giving our members access to a world of medical experts and second opinions; the online Health Hub which provides free health support and resources to our members; and a new Mental Health tool with quick and easy access to mental health diagnosis and professional support.
It’s been 50 years and although a lot has changed, we are still a not for profit health insurer focused on excelling in providing for the wellbeing of our members. We’re not finished at 50 either – as we want Accuro to be known simply as New Zealand’s Best Health Insurer.
This Accuro history page has been compiled as part of our 50 year anniversary. If you have any anecdotes about your time at the Health Services Welfare Society (or Accuro as we’re now called), either working here or as an old Member, then please do get in touch to tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org
Accuro leaders past and present reflect on their time at NZ's best little health insurer and look to the future.