nib reports strong growth but warns of claims inflation

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nib managing director Mark Fitzgibbon said the company is pleased with the performance of its Australian health insurance business despite weak market conditions and affordability pressures.

The company announced its full-year 2017 results yesterday, reporting a 7 per cent increase in revenue to $2 billion and a net profit after tax of $120.2 million.

Mr Fitzgibbon said its domestic health insurance business added 20,204 policyholders during the year, a growth rate of 3.8 per cent, which was almost four-times the industry rate.

"Significantly, nib accounted for more than 30% of the entire industry net policyholder growth for the year," he said. 

The company reported growth in claims of 5 per cent, lower than anticipated, but that 'claims inflation' is moving higher driven by utilisation.

“Last year we paid for more than 310,000 episodes of care costing almost $1.2 billion in total. Our largest claim was almost $410,000. Naturally, we're doing everything we can to keep a lid on claims inflation and maintain affordability of premiums and our most recent average premium increase was the lowest in 14 years and below the industry average,” said Mr Fitzgibbon.

“However, we are seeing claims, both hospital and ancillary, start to drift upwards after a prolonged period of relatively low growth. Essentially, Australians are demanding more and more healthcare for all the reasons we understand such as an ageing population,” he added.

nib’s other businesses, which include international workers and students, nib New Zealand and travel insurance distributor the World Nomads Group, contributed 30 per cent of the company's earnings. This was up from 28.4 per cent last year and the company said it could one day rise to 50 per cent. 

Mr Fitzgibbon also welcomed growth in the company's Whitecoat digital platform.

“From the outset we envisaged Whitecoat as an industry platform and it was fantastic to see Bupa and HBF become joint venture partners during the year. Whitecoat is already making it easier for consumers to find, select, and book a doctor, dentist or other clinical providers,” he said.