I’m Glad I Live In New Zealand

The passing of the US Presidential Election makes me glad I live in New Zealand. Despite the poor economy, high cost of living and negative culture there are a lot of things going for us down in the South Pacific. We truly don’t know how lucky we are.

If you hurt yourself playing sport or at work, you aren’t going to be rendered destitute in New Zealand. If that does happen, you’ll get a couple of operations courtesy of ACC and the public health system first. As a fan of efficiency, I find it amazing how so many Americans could think that everyone being able to get to a hospital or specialist when they need to is a bad thing.

With the re-election of Barack Obama, the Affordable Care Act, which funnily enough is based on Mitt Romney’s health plan he set up when he was governor of that state, the United States marginally edges towards becoming a first world country that cares about its citizens.

After the Christchurch earthquake we learnt the hard way not to trust the insurance industry. The Earthquake Commission might have caused drama with deciding which quake caused what damage, but where would the billions of dollars it will pay out have come from if there was no earthquake levy?

Insurance companies have returned to profitability while Christchurch families struggle to get on with their lives. Even if they did the right thing and took out insurance on their contents, their homes and their businesses many of them are still significantly out of pocket. Some insurance companies are even taking their clients to court to challenge the contracts they entered into with altered meanings and eloquent arguments advanced by Queen’s Counsel.

Imagine having to deal with insurance companies looking to cut costs when it comes to your health. The US health insurance industry has replaced doctors as the most important decision makers. Have you ever met someone who works in insurance? I sure wouldn’t want them deciding whether or not to operate. But I’d trust the Tauranga Hospital orthopaedic surgeon who repaired my broken arm when I was 8.

There’s a lot of risk when you buy an insurance policy and pay your premium. If it wasn’t for taxpayers, AMI policyholders could have been plain out of luck because AMI directors didn’t purchase enough reinsurance and focused on cheap premiums over building a substantial asset base “just in case”. You could find yourself at the mercy of an insurance adjuster whose incentives are the opposite of yours.

The outcome of the US election makes me glad I live in New Zealand. I like the idea that John Key can’t decide who lives and dies with drone missile strikes. I like the idea that if I have an accident I won’t be staring through the glass of the emergency room while a credit check or wallet biopsy is performed. And I like the idea that only when you are really injured or ill do bureaucrats at ACC start calling the shots.

I’m glad I live in New Zealand, but with the economy the way it is and the difficulty of creating opportunities for yourself I don’t know how much longer I can justify staying here. That means I’ll have to interact with health insurance companies overseas. That’s something I’m not looking forward to.