Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders with high health needs are missing out on cheaper GP fees as the cost of going to the doctor hits $70, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.
“The number of practices subsidised to provide the very low cost access (VLCA) scheme has been capped since 2009.
“The result is some 434,040 high needs patients who should be able to access cheaper visits are not enrolled in a practice that qualifies for the subsidy.
“Perversely it also means patients who are not categorised as high needs will often be enrolled at a VLCA practice, while some of those practices are themselves struggling due to funding cuts.
“The system has been allowed to become inequitable and unfair, and the blame sits squarely with Jonathan Coleman.
“A report he received almost a year ago from a high level working group reviewing primary care recommended he change the way VLCA was targeted, plus he ignored Treasury advice to bid for extra Budget funding to do it.
“Not only that, but he told doctors that any changes would probably have to made under a different Health Minister.
“National has cut $1.7 billion from Health across six years. Primary health care is the first step on the ladder to keeping people well.
“Insufficient funding in primary health leads to major costs down the track. For Jonathan Coleman to fob this off as being someone else’s problem is beyond pathetic.
“He needs to man up and provide some solutions right now,” Annette King said.