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Confusion reigns over subsidies for patients

Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health Spokesman

26 June 2008

Confusion reigns over subsidies for patients

Hospital waiting lists are set to grow and health insurance premiums are set to rocket, as the Ministry of Health indicates a possible change in policy on pharmaceutical subsidies, says National’s Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

In the Health Select Committee yesterday, the Director-General of Health, Stephen McKernan, indicated that the Ministry would be reviewing subsidised pharmaceuticals for patients being treated by a private specialist. Currently, patients receiving care from a private specialist receive the same pharmaceutical subsidies as patients receiving care from a public hospital specialist.

"Many people go to a private specialist because they can't get timely treatment in the public health system,” says Mr Ryall.

“More and more New Zealanders are choosing to pay the full cost of private treatment without health insurance. Until now, apart from paying $15 per prescription item, any pharmaceuticals have been subsidised according to the Pharmac schedule.

"Now the Ministry of Health says this could breach the Government's ‘policy provision’ that if a patient is treated in private then the costs are private.

"This is total confusion. It is one thing for the Government to support loading the costs for lab tests onto patients seen by a private specialist, but another to make them pay for the full cost of pharmaceuticals. This could prove very costly for many patients who will have no other option but to join growing hospital waiting lists.

"There is always going to be some division between public and private services. But removing pharmaceutical subsidies from patients who, for example, go to a private cardiologist or gynaecologist, is a significant policy change and New Zealanders must be made aware of it.

“This is ideology out of control.”

ENDS

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