Having just read the National health policy and background paper released by Labour, a few things stand out to me.
1) There is no commitment to primary health-care. In fact, in 25 pages all it says is ‘we’ll do what’s already happening but we’ll re-name PHOs ‘Family Health Centres’, got ‘family’ in the name, don’t you know’. No more money for primary health, even though the experts say this is where we can get the best bang for our health buck.
2) Even in this private document there is no ‘how’ behind any of the grand claims. ‘We’ll spend the money better’ how? Despite claiming Labour’s $56 million increase in money for elective surgeries has not been able to deliver better results because of capacity constraints, National claims it will ‘somehow’ find a way to increase capacity, including 750 more medical staff and an unquantified number of support staff. All while not increasing the health budget, not increasing support staff numbers, and opposing pay-rises for medical staff.
3) It is remarkably short of detail. It is written in a tone that is not frank and is highly party poltiical; this is a document for internal consumption, but it reads like spin. If you’ve ever seen a cabinet paper, the papers the Government bases its decisions on, you know they frankly outline the various options, the pros and cons, and the costs involved. There is none of this in the National paper.
4) There is not even a statement of the overall cost of the policies proposed or where the money will come from (whether where within the existing health budget or from new money). I did some adding. National’s rebates for 65+ health insurance will cost $40 million a year (this is supposedly to increase the use of private insurance but nearly all the money will go to people who already have insurance ie those who can afford it without a rebate), a $100 a year 65+ dental payment worth $55 million, $15 million for palliative care (anyone seeing a pattern? maybe the Nats some blue rinse votes up for grabs with NZF collapsing? If you want bang for your buck, you invest in childhood health; if you want votes, you give it to the elderly), $20 million for a politically compromised Pharmac, and some smaller measures. So $100 million + a year and no discussion, even in a private document, over where it will come from.