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UC to give public lecture on NZ’s health challenges

UC to give public lecture on NZ’s health challenges

February 25, 2014

A visiting academic to the University of Canterbury, who has been an adviser to three US presidents, will give a public lecture on campus about the challenges facing the New Zealand health care system this week.

Professor Bill Hsiao, from Harvard University in Boston, says New Zealand has an admirable health care system, but is facing severe challenges.

``The annual inflation rate of total health care costs will continue to rise beyond the increase in its annual GDP because of the aging of population, increasing chronic diseases and the high-cost of new medical technology.

``Public funding is limited, thus more and more funding and delivery of health services are being pushed to the private sector. New Zealand is approaching a tipping point where the private sector could severely weaken the public sector services.

``How could New Zealand balance the public and private sector to maintain its good health care system? I will discuss this issue and suggest some solutions.’’ 
Professor Hsiao is an Erskine visitor to UC. The Erskine programme was established in 1963 following a generous bequest by former distinguished UC student John Erskine. Professor Hsiao will give his lecture at UC’s College on Education from 4pm on Thursday (February 27).

He has advised Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George W Bush on national health insurance and health policies.

He says the rapid rise in health expenditure is putting a strain on the Crown budget.

``New Zealand spends 20 percent of Crown budget on health, one of the highest among Western advanced economies. The Government spends more on health than education and the largest share of increase in spending will go to health for the next five years.

``This country has to use rationing (waiting time) to limit publicly funded services. There are 300,000 people on the waiting list here with strict definition of who is eligible to go on the waiting list.

``Before the recent economic crisis, more unhappy New Zealand residents were voting with their feet by buying private insurance or self-pay and go to private services.

``More and more senior physicians are devoting their time to private practices. Other countries such as Singapore and England experienced that, once the exodus reaches a certain level, patients have less confidence in public health services and public support and funding for these public services decline,’’ Professor Hsiao says.


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