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Alliance Releases Health Policy

8 July 2002

Alliance Leader Laila Harré today released the Alliance Health Policy 2002, with a firm commitment to a dedicated health levy of 1% combined with tax cuts for those earning under $40 000 a year.

Laila Harré said that the Alliance health levy policy was very similar to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and Australia’s Medicare system and is a key part of the Alliance’s commitment to investing in the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

The Alliance policy places a strong emphasis on primary health care and solving the crisis in hospital funding.

The bulk of the $840 million generated by the health levy will go into primary health care, funding free doctors visits and free prescriptions ($465million).

“With the exception of the US, New Zealand is unique amongst comparable countries in having significant financial barriers to primary health care. There is no doubt that many New Zealanders are not going to the doctor, or taking their children to the doctor, when they need to because the price is just too high, “said Ms Harré.

“As a result we have an overburdened hospital system and the unacceptable occurrence of third world diseases in our poorest communities. Almost 1/3 of hospital admissions could be avoided by an early visit to the doctor.

“Hospital treatment at advanced stages of illness is expensive. Early intervention at the primary health level is much cheaper, much more effective and will save us money in the long run,” she said.

District Health Boards would receive $300 million extra funding per annum to address DHB operating deficits, increase staff incomes, and reduce time on waiting lists.

Of the remaining $75 million, $20 million will be used to meet the rural medical crisis. This is in addition to the $32 million of new funding announced by the government in March, making a total of $52 million. The rest will be put towards expanding dental and optometry services, fully funding Family Planning and providing a range of improvements in public health and mental health.

Ms Harré said that the Alliance was offering New Zealanders a very clear response to their concerns about the public health system.

“New Zealanders say they want an end to hospital waiting lists. They say they are concerned about the shortage of trained staff in hospitals, and they say the cost of going to the doctor and getting a prescription filled is too high. These are very valid concerns but solving them will cost money. Other parties will promise solutions but they will not bite the bullet and come up with a budget.

“Voters have a very clear choice this election – allow the public health system to limp along in its current state of underfunding or support the Alliance in investing now in making New Zealand’s health system one that we can be proud of again.

Ends

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