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Nats want inquiry into medicine bungle

Tony Ryall MP National Party Health Spokesman

13 May 2008

Nats want inquiry into medicine bungle

National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall is demanding a full investigation into why overseas visitors have been receiving subsidised medicines which they are not entitled to.

"Millions of taxpayer dollars will have been wrongly paid to provide cheap medicines for overseas visitors because of a so-called computer glitch.

"When many New Zealanders are asked to go without, this is a monumental blunder. The Government must explain how this has happened and what's being done to fix it.

"Taxpayers will resent any suggestion that they have been subsidising medicines for visitors who are not entitled, when Kiwis face hurdle after hurdle to get the drugs they need."

Mr Ryall understands that the computer system used in about 85% of GP practices does not print out on the prescription form the code that identifies a patient as not being entitled to a subsidy.

The software fault means pharmacists filling prescriptions for visitors and some overseas students are charging them a subsidised rate.

Pharmacists then claim the subsidy from the Ministry of Health. The problem is also thought to have extended to lab tests.

"New Zealanders will be justifiably asking how Labour's army of health bureaucrats missed this serious problem and may have missed it for years. Who did the audits, why wasn't this picked up?"

Last year around 2.5 million tourists visited New Zealand. Most are not entitled to subsidised health care.


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