With the torpor of the holiday period well underway, it is difficult to rouse me to the level of irritation required to write a post1. An article by Martin Johnson in the NZ Herald did – “Patients told: Prove you’re a Kiwi“.
Now I have absolutely no qualms about non-citizens and residents having to pay for medical treatment, provided that they get the emergency care they require. I have serious qualms about having to hold on to silly bits of paper to ‘prove’ that I was born here for the sole benefit of bureaucratic nonsense. Tim Holt in the article points to the modern solution.
Tim Holt of New Lynn is one of many patients who have received the letter. His came from the Waitemata District Health Board, and he is refusing to comply.
The 46-year-old is on an invalid’s benefit after ACC refused to pay weekly compensation following a fall in 2008 which left him with a suspected fracture of his pelvis and serious pain.
He has had consultations with Waitemata DHB specialists for sinus and back problems.
The first letter Mr Holt received was dated December 13 and demanded that he show the board his New Zealand birth certificate, passport or other proof of eligibility.
Yesterday, he opened a second letter which said that if he did not comply by January 10, he would be sent a bill for his care.
“It’s fair enough if it’s a visitor, because it’s costing the country millions,” Mr Holt said. “I can see the reason for it. But there should be a database they can access.”
He said health boards should be given electronic access to Internal Affairs’ citizenship records.
Now I’m a lot like Tim Holt. I haven’t been able to locate the ratty old bit of paper that is my birth certificate from 1959 for a number of years. My passport expired sometime in the 1990’s because I don’t feel the need to get into a airborne cattle truck. So with the exception of my seldom used drivers licence which is specific to driving a car I have no identity papers.
I can’t see any particular need to hold on to bits of rather useless bits of paper that really prove bugger all apart from how easy it would be to forge old documents. There really isn’t that much to the process. Last time I looked at getting a replacement birth certificate to be my de-facto identity papers2, it would up as being (from memory) some details about my life and a photocopy of my drivers licence. The major part of the process is using those details to lookup the record of the birth in what must be a pretty comprehensive database. That is what the $26.50 that it costs to get a duplicate birth certificate is for. There is no requirement in law for me or Tim Holt to hold a birth certificate or a passport or for that matter to have a drivers license if we aren’t driving. So the onus as far as I’m concerned is for the DHB to confirm citizenship and/or residency. However it appears that at least one DHB thinks I am its supplicant rather than its paymaster.
As far as I’m aware there is no requirement for me to carry identity papers in this country except when I’m driving. I have no intention of starting to carry them for the benefit of the state without the political debate required to introduce them. The corollary of that is that if I cannot get the services from the state without them then why should I pay taxes for services that I cannot access. If the DHB’s require identity checks then they should pay for them. I’d be happy to provide the information for them to check. They can get the details from me and get confirmation from the DIA. I’m pretty sure that they can get a bulk rate that will be cheaper than them engaging in correspondence or litigation.
The approach that the DHB (and in the background Tony Ryall’s idiot management of the health sector) are using is simply guaranteed to cause problems for the poor and beneficiaries. Of course bearing in mind the National parties habit of beneficiary bashing and beneficiary bullying this may actually be the intent. I know if they tried this type of crap on me or my family then whoever did it would have had problems with digesting the response. But beneficiaries and the poor are easier targets which is why National traditionally likes to target them.
Certainly by the time the DHB’s have gone through the round of correspondence and litigation against NZ citizens and residents, I’d suspect that it costs more overall than taking the more sensible approach that Tim Holt suggests.
The state (including the DHB’s) is my frigging servant and I am not its bloody servant. This type of high-handed interpretation on what I am expected to do for their convenience is just unacceptable.