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Affordable primary health care for all in PHO

Fri, 16 July 2004

More affordable primary health care for all in PHOs

All New Zealanders belonging to Primary Health Organisations - currently over 3.5 million people - will be entitled to cheaper primary health care such as doctors' visits and prescriptions by July 2007, up to five years earlier than first anticipated.

In a joint announcement today, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister Annette King say the Government will inject an extra $415.7 million over three years to provide more affordable primary health care for everyone belonging to PHOs, as well as a standard prescription charge of not more than $3 per item, higher subsidies for influenza injections for older people, and other benefits.

"Almost all New Zealanders are expected to benefit because of the huge momentum PHOs have developed.

"Just two years after the first two PHOs were established in South Auckland, 3.57 million New Zealanders now belong to PHOs, and some two million of them are already entitled to cheaper doctors' visits and subsidised prescription items even without this latest investment."

Helen Clark and Annette King say the cheaper doctors' visits and cheaper prescriptions will be rolled out for 18 to 24 year-olds in July next year, for 45 to 64-year-olds in July 2006, and for the rest of New Zealanders, the 25 to 44-year-olds, in July 2007.

"Improving access to the 18-24 age group can have a lifelong impact on health in areas like mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual health. The more we can get prevention messages across to younger people, the better.

"It is also important to include the 45-64 age group as soon as we can, because they suffer more from chronic illnesses, are more frequent users of the health system, and have higher avoidable rates of hospital admissions.

"This final rollout of funding to implement the Primary Health Care Strategy will cost an extra $58.3 million in 2005-06, $144.9 million in 2006-07 and $212.5 million in 2007-08.

"In total, the Government will have committed $1.7 billion over six years from 2002-03 specifically for implementing the Strategy using the PHO model.

"The first modest contribution of $48 million was provided in 2002-03. In 2007-08 it will reach $492.5 million, and funding will increase every year after that to ensure it retains its real value.

"This high level of investment in delivering low-cost, accessible, and equitable primary health care services to all New Zealanders has been unheard of previously."

Ms King said she had originally estimated it would take eight to 10 years to provide funding to implement the Strategy.

"I was clearly too cautious, and underestimated the enthusiasm with which the PHO model would be adopted. The new funding the Government is announcing today will be used to fast-track universal low cost health care far more quickly than I had ever believed was possible.

"The Government was determined to provide funding for low-cost health care firstly for those who needed it most, and since then we have rolled out the funding for under-18s, and, from this month, for all over-65s belonging to PHOs. We have also invested an extra $26 million this year in the Care Plus programme aimed at helping people suffering from chronic illnesses no matter where they live in New Zealand. The value of what the Government is doing can clearly be seen in the fact that the average co-payment now paid by people over-65 visiting the doctor is $22.88.

"That's great news. Delivering accessible and affordable primary health care is fundamental to improving the health of all New Zealanders and turning round some of our worst health statistics."

Helen Clark says PHOs, with their emphasis on a range of health professionals providing health care, including prevention and promotion, to an enrolled population, can improve the overall health of all New Zealanders.

"They give us one of the best chances we've had in years of truly making a difference to the quality of life in this country. This is a strategy that is for everyone. We all deserve good health care and this Government is committed to providing it."

A PHO is a group of providers whose job is to look after all the people enrolled with them. The group will always include a family doctor and may also include nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, Maori health providers, mental health workers, Pacific health providers, community health workers, and others.

People can call 0800-HLTH-4-U (0800-458-448) for information on PHOs.


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