Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A bitter pill

The Budget will be delivered next week, and the government is well into the usual pre-announcements, dribbling out Budget programmes to distract from the ongoing John Banks scandal. Yesterday's "good news" announcement was more money for elective (meaning unnecessary) surgery and cancer treatment. Yesterday's bad news was that they are paying for this by raising prescription charges from $3 to $5.

Two dollars doesn't sound like a lot of money (especially to government Ministers paid over $250,000 a year). But as GP Lance O'Sullivan pointed out on Nine To Noon this morning [audio], the existing charges are already a barrier to uptake among low-income families. Which means people going without the medication prescribed to them, which in turn means them ending up in hospital as the problem goes untreated. O'Sullivan summed it up bluntly:

Anything that hinders access to primary health care does result in unnecessary and preventable hospitalisations and deaths. Anything that hinders and creates more barriers to primary health care will create more mortality, more morbidity, more death and hospitalisations.
(Which of course costs money. It remains to be seen whether the cost of increased hospitalisations has been included in National's "savings", or whether they're ignoring it).

So, this will reduce health access to those at the very bottom, resulting in more illness and more deaths, in order to provide more treatment for rich old people. How very, very National.