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Phase Out Of Community Services Card Begins

Health Minister Annette King said today that directing new primary health care funding toward Primary Health Organisations serving low-income, high health needs New Zealanders signalled the beginning of phasing out the Community Services Card.

“Unfortunately the CSC cannot be eliminated immediately. That will happen as we implement the Primary Health Care Strategy completely over the next eight to 10 years.”

Ms King said that in the meantime the income threshold for the CSC would be raised to allow some 23,000 New Zealanders to have or to continue to have lower-cost visits and prescriptions. “We will also be doing our best to encourage far better uptake of the card by making it simpler to access.”

Ms King said a review of the Community Services Card was carried out last year because the Government was concerned at its low uptake and because of the harsh and blunt nature of the way it was applied.

“The review proceeded on the assumption that the Primary Health Care Strategy would be implemented, and therefore focused on the issues of financial barriers to primary health care, particularly those with the greatest need. We were simply not prepared to live forever with a blunt and ineffective instrument like the CSC.

“Fobbing people off with a ‘poor card’ might have been good enough for the previous Government, but that Government had no genuine vision or strategy for primary health care. It was happy to take the easy and unprincipled way out of providing primary health care. That is why individual patients now bear the greatest burden of the costs of GP visits, and about half the adult population pays the full costs, and many New Zealanders who should have access do not have it.”

Ms King said improvements in the High User Health Card (HUHC) would also be implemented. “The new funding means the CSC and HUHC will gradually be used less and less as PHOs serving high need populations are funded to charge all their enrolled patients the same low fees regardless of income, but initially outside these organisations there will still be a need to ensure individuals and families on low incomes have access to care.”

Ends

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