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Warmer, healthier seniors makes economic and human sense

Media Statement

Hon Peter Dunne
MP for Ohariu
Leader of UnitedFuture
Tuesday 26 July 2011

Dunne: warmer, healthier seniors makes economic and human sense

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne today launched two policies to keep older New Zealanders warmer and healthier, saying both were about making New Zealand the kind of country it should be and made economic sense.

In announcing the Winter Warmer top-up of $50 a month for superannuitants for the three coldest months of the year when their power bills reach $150, and a free annual Warrant of Fitness health check for over-65s, he said it was time New Zealand “did the maths and dropped short term economics”.

“It is also the decent thing to do in terms of how we treat the elderly in our country,” Mr Dunne said.

“Times are tough, but if you cut too many corners you end up with a false economy – and a very harsh country.

“Each winter, on average an extra 3000 people a month are hospitalised at a cost to taxpayers of about $880 a day, and a great many of those people are elderly – that adds up to about $243 million in extra hospital costs each winter.

“We have got to stop just looking at the initial cost of schemes, and measure them against what they save in the longer term through people being healthier and not being in our hospitals, and frankly, not dying because they get cold and sick.

“We save cents and lose dollars. It is a false economy and we see it too often.

“Put that $243 million for increased winter hospitalisation up against our Winter Warmer policy cost of about $57 million to help keep a lot of elderly well, warm and out of hospital,” he said.

Death rates also jump 18 percent over winter – many of them elderly.

Mr Dunne said the subsidy could be implemented by a rebate on the power bill to be claimed back by the power company.

He said the $25 cost of the annual Warrant of Fitness health check for each senior citizen “would be tiny” when balanced against the $880 a day hospital tab picked up by the taxpayer when conditions not got on to early are far more serious and far more expensive to treat.

He said the combined cost of the two policies if fully taken up by all senior citizens would be about $71.5 million – $57 million for the power bill subsidy and $14.5 million for the WOF annual health check.

“Given the benefits that would come from these policies, they would be extraordinarily economical,” he said.

Mr Dunne said that the $71.5 million could be favourably compared to the $350 million a year cost of Labour’s pledge to take GST off fruit and vegetables – “which would give you basically $5 a week for a family, or in real terms, perhaps enough to buy a one kilogram bag of grapes.”

Full detail of UnitedFuture’s policies can be found at www.unitedfuture.org.nz

Last week, UnitedFuture released a radical superannuation policy that would allow New Zealanders to claim superannuation at a reduced rate down to 60 or an enhanced rate up to 70, alongside compulsory KiwiSaver.

ENDS

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