Doctoring the figures

Stuff?ran an editorial last week that criticised the government for breaking their electoral promise over lower doctors’ fees. Quote:

 

Let’s do this ? but maybe a little later.

That appears to be the new narrative as the Labour-led coalition Government approaches its first Budget.

It certainly wasn’t the narrative a few months ago.

At the very top of a Health manifesto that helped build that winning election momentum was this pledge: From 1 July 2018, Labour will lower the cost of GP visits by $10. End of quote.

The trouble with rolling back a promise like this is that, once again, the government hurt the people they claim that they want to help. Those on low incomes or with large families need to reduce the cost of visits to the doctor, and there is evidence stated in the article that at least half a million Kiwis do not go to the doctor because of cost. Quote:

According to Health Minister David Clark that pledge may not be honoured in the forthcoming Budget.

He has said reducing the cost of GP visits remains important but now is something to “work towards over the term of the Government”.

Let’s be adult about this. Labour pledged to do this, won the election, opened the books and supposedly was horrified at the “chronic underfunding” it was unaware of during its nine years of opposition. Then it took a step back.

Most Kiwis would no doubt be comfortable with cutting a new government some slack, although they may soon grow tired of the line about “nine years of neglect”. End of quote.

This claim that the previous government left things in a state that was much worse than they thought simply does not work these days, thanks to the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update. Also, every thinking person knows this government were left with surpluses. The fact that they have gone through the money in the first six months is not the fault of the previous government. It just shows that they were woefully unprepared for government. This is something that we already know. Quote:

In August last year, then Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told us that “our families’ health is our greatest treasure, but it’s becoming more difficult for many people to afford to see the doctor”.

She quoted a survey showing that half a million Kiwis weren’t going to their GP because of the cost.

Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s not just the poor and vulnerable. People with good jobs and incomes are among those struggling to find the $50-$80+ it costs for some to visit a GP.

Ardern said: “That’s not acceptable in New Zealand.”

She described that pledged cut as an “investment in primary care . . . to avoid health problems worsening to the point where they need expensive hospital treatment”. End of quote.

All of this is true. If there is a focus on primary healthcare, it will result in less chronic illness. It will result in fewer hospital visits. And it is particularly important for children. Quote:

But not making, or delaying, that “investment” suggests a reciprocal cost to the health service in more people turning up at their nearest, already over-burdened ED, not getting appropriate treatment in a timely manner or simply passing their illness on to family members, friends and work colleagues.

That will make the budgets of businesses and the health sector a little sicker. End of quote.

So, by breaking an electoral promise now, the result will be that the health budget will need to get bigger over time. This makes absolutely no sense at all.

There is no way the government should be getting away with this. By paying for students to have free tertiary education, they have robbed the poorest sector of our society of cheaper doctors’ visits. This will be something that many people will have voted on.

Is middle-class welfare, such as giving the children of wealthy families free tertiary education they don’t need, really more important than doctors’ visits, nurses’ pay increases or keeping fuel taxes low?

You really do have to wonder with socialist governments. They claim to be the saviours of ordinary people, but they always turn out to be exactly the opposite.

 

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