A-G called on to look into flagship ‘cost-saving’ programme

New health Minister Jonathan Coleman has some serious questions to answer following a decision to wind up the Government’s flagship health savings provider HBL just a fortnight after giving it the green light to implement its plans, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

“National has misled New Zealanders about Health Benefits Limited right from the start. It was set up four years ago to save our district health boards $700 million by 2015, yet no one – not even the Minister – appears to know exactly how much has been saved so far or what the ‘savings’ have been used for.

“DHBs have been warning about cost over-runs and delays to projects for a long time, with one manager likening HBL’s work programme to a Ponzi scheme.

“In June Chief Executive David Wood claimed a new management and new approach was being put in place to provide more transparency.

“Five months later that was followed by reassurances from Mr Coleman on November 7 that HBL had made ‘good progress’ and that the ‘substantial savings’ would be reinvested into frontline health services and cancer treatment.

“Now we hear HBL is being axed in favour of a ‘vehicle’ owned by DHBs. What a farce.

“The Auditor-General turned down an earlier request of mine to look into HBL. In the light of the latest developments I am now asking her to reconsider that and investigate the actions of HBL and whether there has been an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money,” Annette King said.