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Government Urged To Delay Prescription Fees Launch

Pharmacists are calling on the National party to keep prescriptions free for everyone during the current Cost-of-Living crisis, urging them to delay their planned targeted relaunch of the "patient copayment" prescription fee.

"Even people on reasonable incomes are really struggling, with food prices, with mortgages," said pharmacist Lanny Wong, of the Prescription Access Initiative. "Keeping prescriptions free while inflation is high would be a very welcome move by the government, appreciated in every community."

In National’s targeting proposal, a couple working minimum-wage jobs fulltime with two children would have to pay for prescriptions as they would not qualify for a Community Services Card. Single working-age people on only 28.5 hours minimum wage per week would have to pay for prescriptions.

"These income limits are extremely tight," said Wong. "We are concerned that people will again end up in hospital because the prescription fees are a barrier to vital medicine."

Pharmacists are also concerned there has been little to no consultation with pharmacists about the sweeping changes the government is proposing. "It is important the government fully understands the ramifications of the changes they are suggesting - and that means taking the time to genuinely listen to the people having to implement those changes," said Wong.

She said the worst time to be landed with an unexpected bill is when you’re sick or in pain, with sometimes dire results. "People avoid primary healthcare if it makes them feel embarrassed or anxious - and that’s what prescription fees do: they make people feel ashamed."

New Zealand First’s stated policy is to keep prescriptions fees free, so pharmacists will watch any upcoming negotiations "with keen interest," says Wong.

"For the sake of the nation’s health, we are urging the government to give our communities some breathing space, and keep prescriptions fees-free for the time being at the very least."

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