Helping more Kiwis get the medical care they need

  • Hon Dr David Clark

The cost of visiting the doctor will be slashed for more than half a million Kiwis as part of a package of initiatives to help more New Zealanders get the primary health care they need, says Health Minister Dr David Clark.

“The Coalition Government is extending free general practitioner (GP) visits to under-14-year-olds and making GP visits up to $30 cheaper for those on modest incomes who are eligible for the Community Services Card,” says Health Minister David Clark.

“The Coalition Government is already supporting middle- and low-income families with our Families Package, which comes into force on 1 July this year. Today’s announcement gives about 600,000 New Zealanders better access to healthcare from 1 December this year.

“Last year more than half a million New Zealanders didn’t go to their GP because of the cost. In a country like ours, that’s a disgrace.

“Budget 2018 begins the carefully planned and managed rebuild of our critical health services – a big job that will take more than one Budget to fix.

“We are removing barriers to care – particularly primary care, which is so important for identifying and treating problems early. Initiatives to do this include:

  • extending eligibility for the Community Services Card to all those receiving the accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy
  • extending access to very low-cost GP visits to all Community Services Card holders – an estimated 540,000 people, making doctor visits approximately $20 to $30 cheaper for them.

“These two initiatives will require $362.7 million of new funding and will have a major impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

“We are also extending free GP visits and prescriptions to children under the age of 14 – an estimated 56,000 young people – so that cost is not a consideration for parents. That is an investment of an extra $22.0 million from the Government over four years.

“To further support the health and wellbeing of our young people, we are extending the nurses in schools programme to cover all public decile 4 secondary schools. That means an extra 24,000 students will have easy access to support, care and advice from a nurse at their school. The additional funding of $17.0 million over four years will expand coverage of this programme, which currently covers decile 1 to 3 secondary schools, and teen-parent units.

“This Government recognises that many of our young people need access to ongoing support, including mental health services, as they leave the school system. Over the next three years we will be piloting a free counselling and evidence-based therapy service for young adults aged 18 to 25. It will be modelled on England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, and will receive $10.5 million in funding over three years.

“This reflects the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Labour and the Green Party.

“Budget 2018 also sees a major investment to support the more than 33,000 New Zealanders who need assistance for physical, mental or sensory disabilities. We are providing $9.0 million in the 2017/18 year and $201.6 million in operating funding over four years for Disability Support Services to cover population growth, ageing and cost pressures.

“The needs of the ageing population are also being recognised with work in the 2018/19 financial year to develop options for a free annual health check (including vision) for all SuperGold card holders, at a one-off cost of $1.0 million in operating funds. This recognises the Coalition Agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.

“We are also increasing Government support for the roll-out of the National Bowel Screening Programme. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the developed world. Currently bowel screening is offered in five DHB regions. Over four years, $67.1 million of operating funding will extend the programme to a further five DHBs, as well as fund a national coordination centre, four bowel screening regional centres, and a national IT solution.

“Budget 2018 strengthens the foundations of our primary care services and helps more New Zealanders get medical care when they need it,” says David Clark.