ASPECTS of private health insurer NIB's businesses are still struggling in a pandemic climate but the flagship business is strong, its chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon told the national stock market on Monday.
The Hunter-based health insurer reported a 4.4 per cent increase in its group underlying profit in the six months to December 31 and net profits of $66.2 million, up 15.9 per cent on the previous year. Total group revenue was $1.3 billion - down 1.1 per cent in the same period.
NIB chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon said that the result was "pleasing" given the challenges of COVID-19 and its disruption of NIB's insurance offerings for international workers, students and travellers.
"[These results] are setting us up for a strong finish - there are some troubled parts of the business directly impacted ... but they are 20 per cent of the business and the rest is in really good shape," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
"The earnings outlook is on the upside a little bit but if we do better...we will look to redress that as part of next year's premium pricing, but it's too early to call."
NIB added more than 16,000 Australian residents health insurance (AHRI) in the six months to December (up 2.7% on the prior year) and grew its premium income by 2.2% to $1.1 billion.
About 52% of new members were under the age of 40, and more than 45% of sales being new to private health.
"COVID has made people aware of the risk of disease, and also of the pressure hospitals are under," he said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the AHRI business was doing well in Australia and in NSW and he expected the ailing arms of the business to recover "quickly once COVID-19 is behind us."
"There are no imminent threats in AHRI and with the other businesses we are just biding time waiting for market conditions to recover," he said.
Beyond the pandemic's influence on consumer health insurance spending, he said the travel restrictions also meant some people had more funds for discretionary items like health insurance.
"I don't want to sound like a braggart but we have always defied gravitya bit in the youth market and that's because of product design and position in the market place," he said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the pandemic had accelerated NIB's investment in member programs and made the need for prevention rather than a cure more evident.
"We are not celebrating the misery of COVID but some of the [pluses] are clear ... It will accelerate digital health care and maybe our grandkids will find it strange that we sat in a waiting room with six others. We'll see a shift toward consultation, treatment and diagnosis on digital platforms," he said.
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