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Concern at ‘blunt’ imposition of health charges

18 June 2006

Concern at ‘blunt’ imposition of health user charges for lab tests

Hutt Valley District Health Board’s decision to impose extra patient charges on patients with health insurance has drawn criticism from the health industry.

The Health Funds Association of New Zealand (HFANZ) is concerned the new charge will drive up the overall costs in the health sector and will worsen disparities in terms of the costs to people accessing health services.

“At present, the lab tests are a health service freely available to all New Zealand citizens.” Says HFANZ Executive Director Claire Austin.

“The new user charge regime will bluntly hit patients, and include extra charges through a $13 encounter fee for patients - solely on the basis of who referred them for the tests. The inflated costs could bring in $6.5 million a year to the laboratory and the DHB.

HFANZ is seeking a legal opinion on whether the charge is a breach of people’s rights to health care, available to all New Zealanders and to apply funding rules consistently.

“It is not fair or just to make a crude distinction and say we’ll fund lab tests for some patients but not those who are already taking the pressure off the public system by having health insurance. “

“Many people will be concerned that this is a first step towards a more comprehensive universal charging regime for lab tests. There is a risk things will evolve in a very ad hoc manner as each health board determines its own regime. New Zealanders need certainty and fairness.”

ENDS

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