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Saccharine Sweetener For Elderly Patients

Saccharine Sweetener For Elderly Patients

ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy today labelled Health Minister Annette King's announcement yesterday - to fast-track health cost changes for over 65 year-olds - nothing more than an election sweetener.

"On July 1 2004, all patients aged over 65 and enrolled in Primary Health Organisations will receive cheaper primary healthcare, and pay a maximum fee of $3 per prescription item. Originally scheduled for implementation in 2005/06, this will now be up and running at election time," Mrs Roy said.

"Yet, in the last Budget, the Minister promised that everyone enrolled in access PHOs, and all under 18 year-olds enrolled in any PHO, would receive this maximum $3 charge by October 1. Yesterday, Ms King reneged on that promise, delaying it until 2004.

"This is completely unacceptable - the Minister made a promise, and is now backing down in order to secure votes for the next election. While appealing to those who are more likely to vote for her, Ms King is forcing our poorest patients to wait another six months for savings they were promised in October.

"By fast-tracking this initiative, the Minister is trying to entice the over-65 vote. She originally promised cheaper healthcare to the elderly in 2002/03. This was subsequently delayed until 2005/06 - but has now been moved forward a year, to the other side of the election.

"While Ms King is pretending to care about New Zealanders' health needs, this juggling act clearly shows she actually is more committed to buying votes for the next election, than providing consistent healthcare to those who truly need it.

"The Minister is putting her vote-buying needs before the health needs of New Zealand patients. Access PHO patients and those under 18 have health needs as well. The only reason they have been sidelined is because they are either too young, or not inclined, to vote Labour," Mrs Roy said.

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