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Nats want to dismantle health sector by stealth

11 August 2005

Nats want to dismantle health sector by stealth, says King

Health Minister Annette King says a National government could introduce user-charges in hospitals, as well as increasing the costs of doctors visits and prescriptions for most New Zealanders.

She warned New Zealanders to beware of the hidden messages in National leader Don Brash's policy speech on health last night.

The speech, in which he made a feeble commitment to keeping the PHOs he said he would scrap last year, was big on generalities but short on specifics, she said.

"He needs to come clean on the hidden messages; if he intends scrapping funding for universal access to primary health care, then presumably he also intends to restore National's policy of the 90s, of charging for hospital visits.

"There is no logic otherwise. You can't abolish universal funding for primary health care and yet retain it in hospitals. If Don Brash thinks it is wrong that someone on his income gets a subsidy for primary health care, then it is equally wrong for him to be able to get free hospital treatment."

Annette King says National must also come clean on where the threshold will be for eligibility for a community services card.

"Will it be earnings of $20,000 a year, or $30,000, or $40,000? How much will the bureaucracy cost to administer a system with variable thresholds? Is it fair that someone earning $40,000 a year should have to pay the same to see a doctor as someone like Don Brash, who earns $200,000 a year? That's why Labour believes in universal provision. There should not be any arbitrary earnings barrier to anyone getting health care when they need it.

"National clearly has a hidden health agenda in everything it is saying. That agenda is a plan for private health insurance. Universal provision would end under National, probably from July next year, because Don Brash has not committed to extending the four year health funding path beyond then," she said.

"Don Brash must think New Zealanders are incredibly naive if he believes they won't see through his plan to have a full review of the health sector. When something is working well, as the health sector is, you don't review it. You only review something when you want to cut health services.

Don Brash gave the clearest sign yet last night that National's intention would be to cut public health services drastically, in its first term of office, if it was ever elected."

ENDS

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