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Primary healthcare "gone by lunchtime"

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

10 September 2008
Media Statement

Primary healthcare "gone by lunchtime"

National's hard-right agenda is peeking out through the lines of its draft health policy, Associate Minister of Health Jim Anderton said today.

Jim Anderton said the draft policy, a leaked copy of which was obtained by the Government, showed that cheaper doctors visits or medicines will only be kept in the primary health care strategy "in the short term".

"National has already expressed their preference to scrap the cap on GP's fees, saying it was a market, after all. National cannot be trusted on their promise to keep the primary health care strategy - it will be gone by lunchtime, should they be elected."

He said National's health policy placed more emphasis on the private sector to attempt to meet our health needs.

"This policy will subsidise and rely on the private sector, taking away funding from the public sector and lining the pockets of health insurers and pharmaceutical companies. They will systematically dismantle the public health system New Zealanders want."

Jim Anderton said that in contrast, the Labour-Progressive Government was committed to a public health system that people can trust, one that is there for them regardless of their ability to pay.

"We have kept primary healthcare subsidies universal, so that everyone is able to get cheaper doctors visits and cheaper prescription medicines. Kiwi families are saving about $500 a year because of that.

"We have invested in more frontline staff, building on the 4,000 additional nurses and 1,000 additional doctors since 1999.

"We continue to maintain and improve hospital buildings and campuses so they are better able to cope with high demand in the public health system. For example we have invested in the largest hospital building and redevelopment campaign in New Zealand's history."

Jim Anderton said the National party policy proposed tax rebates for those who can afford private health insurance, effectively locking in a two-tier health system where those who can afford private insurance are rewarded and everyone else gets left behind.

"Once again, this proposal came from the leaked National Party health policy. It's clear National are more interested in creating profit-making opportunities for the private sector than they are in providing quality public services for all New Zealanders.

"Tax rebates for those who have private health insurance will do nothing to improve our public health system.

"For a 70-year old, it costs over $30 a week to buy simple surgical cover for health insurance. That's surgery only - no GP, no dental. How many people on NZ Super can afford that?"

Jim Anderton said National's health policy subsidied the wealthiest New Zealanders, at the expense of the neediest and most vulnerable.


National health policy document (PDF)


Comparing the Government's and National's Policy on Health

Government National
Investing in the workforce
The Labour-Progressive Government is investing in more frontline staff. We now have 4000 more nurses and over 1000 more doctors since 1999. Labour recognised the valuable role nurses play in health-care with a historic pay-rise in 2005.
Cut the bureaucracy
DHB Management and administration staff are the people who answer phones, paperwork, IT systems and manage outpatient services. National would rather doctors and nurses did this work.
Focus on a public health system
The Labour-Progressive Government has been focused on building a public health system that is affordable and accessible for all Kiwis. That's why we invested in cheaper doctors' visits and medicines, as well as increasing public hospital capacity.
Focus on private health care
National focuses on giving more money to private health care and removing funding for the public sector. Their plan focuses on making the public sector dependant on private contracts.

Nat plans to subsidise private health insurance, in reality doesn't translate to any reduced demand on the public health sector.

Nats drug buying policy would see pharmaceutical companies lined up around the block to lobby for their drugs to be funded by government. Rather than keeping New Zealand's independent system based on proven medical effectiveness of the drugs.

Primary and preventative health
Invested in cheaper doctors' visits and medicines as well as launching initiatives around alcohol and tobacco control, cancer control and good nutrition to prevent chronic disease.
Short term expediency
National cannot be trusted when it comes to primary health care - they will not guarantee the future of cheaper doctors and medicines, stating they will only keep these 'in the short term'.

National has made it clear in the past that they would scrap the cap on GPs fees and leave it to the market.

National pays lip service to preventative health but state that they will not get involved in peoples lives. National's plan ignores causes and takes a dangerous short term view of the health system.


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