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The state is MY servant

Written By: - Date published: 1:14 pm, January 2nd, 2011 - 25 comments
Categories: identity, public services, same old national, Social issues - Tags:

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.

  1. Something that this idiot government relied on with their dumping of bad news at the end of the year. I have a little list of people to target.
  2. Unlike Tim Holt I have income and a credit card. So I ordered a copy of my birth certificate a few years ago. By the time that the paper was to be couriered to me I had moved and wee notes from courier companies were not routed to my new address. The DIA doesn’t appear to use e-mail and I didn’t find out until some snail mail got routed to me months later. Some day I must get around to finding the time to either do the irritating exercise again or to do a comprehensive sweep of the last few decades accumulated paper. It’d be a whole lot easier if the government departments learnt how to use electronic communications.

25 comments on “The state is MY servant ”

  1. eszett 1

    “He said health boards should be given electronic access to Internal Affairs’ citizenship records.”

    Would that not violate any current privacy laws? I mean the DHB having access to Internal Affairs records just ike that?

    Question is whether it is really money well spent to set up an IT infrastructure give all DHB the ability to query the citizenship records.

    • lprent 1.1

      Question is whether it is really money well spent to set up an IT infrastructure give all DHB the ability to query the citizenship records.

      Figure out the costs. If they ask every citizen to validate their citizenship which is what this appears to be, then what is the total cost of that (including to those that they are asking the question of)? Of course if you insist that everyone carries identity papers then you run into another more political issue.

      The DHB’s carry data on a patient in their systems. The DIA carries computer records of all births and residencies. You’re only talking about sending a query one way and receiving a yes/no the other. Which is exactly what they get now by seeing a birth certificate, passport, or residency

      Would that not violate any current privacy laws? I mean the DHB having access to Internal Affairs records just ike that?

      Nope. It would be a simple limited query to say that given some details if the person has citizenship or residence. That is exactly what they are currently requiring when they ask for a birth certificate or a passport. What they get off that is the same answer – yes or no. Presumably that does not violate privacy since they are able to ask for it now?

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        You’re only talking about sending a query one way and receiving a yes/no the other. Which is exactly what they get now by seeing a birth certificate, passport, or residency

        No it’s not. By being able to produce the document you actually prove that you are who you say you are. Admittedly, such documents are easy to forge but having a two way identification procedure (having the document and having that documents validity checked via DIAs database) would help reduce such fraud. It would also help reduce the instances of identity theft.

        Of course if you insist that everyone carries identity papers then you run into another more political issue.

        Yes you do but if you’re going to have absolutely no qualms about non-citizens and residents having to pay for medical treatment then you’re going to have to have a way so that citizenship can be proved reasonably cheaply and reliably as just taking everyone’s word doesn’t cut it.

        • lprent 1.1.1.1

          That is pretty much the point. I suspect overall that taking peoples word would probably be a damn sight cheaper overall.

          Trying to establish identity on everyone is just outright expensive. It is also effectively requiring identity papers using a scrap of paper that was signed by a doctor 51 years ago that has absolutely no security.

          It is just silly. So why in the hell are they doing it?

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1.1

            Trying to establish identity on everyone is just outright expensive.

            Considering that everyone already has such an identity then it’s relatively cheap.

            I suspect overall that taking peoples word would probably be a damn sight cheaper overall.

            It would also help enable identity theft.

            So why in the hell are they doing it?

            Because otherwise anybody from anywhere in the world can walk in and say that they’re a NZer and get the treatment which would run into millions of dollars per year quite easily. All they’d have to ensure is that they had the information of a compatible person whose identity could be used.

            Or, hey, it could be an export “earner” – people could sell their information so that other people could come into the country and get free medical coverage.

            • lprent 1.1.1.1.1.1

              I suspect that you are missing my point completely.

              A birth certificate is issued to the parents. If they don’t hand it on (and they have no legal requirement to do so), then the DHB is forcing a citizen to acquire identity papers at their own expense. Now as far as I can see that is not a requirement in the act’s governing them. So this is something that the DHB is attempting to foist into the legal requirements for their own administrative convenience.

              As far as I can see from the legislation, the onus is actually on the DHB’s to establish citizenship or residency. For them to attempt to turn the onus around almost certainly will not stand up in court.

              It is not like a passport which does have a legislative requirement for me to establish my right to carry a NZ passport, or a drivers license to prove that I am qualified to drive a vehicle. The legal requirement is for the DHB to establish their right to treat citizens and residents with a subsidy. It is not a requirement for me to prove that I am eligible for that subsidy.

              If they asked for me to help them establish citizenship/residency, then most people including me would probably help. But they aren’t. They are attempting to force people to prove their eligibility without a legislated basis to do so.

              If they attempt to force me to prove my citizenship then I and probably a lot of other people will force them to prove their right to do so on the basis that we have no requirement to carry identity papers. I suspect that the DHB will be unable to do so.

              I’d expect that this will be an issue that heads through the courts or Tony Ryall will try to push and amendment through on the legislation. In either case the issue of requiring identity papers should get properly debated in the political arena rather than by an arbitrary administrative fiat by a DHB.

              Of course this government will probably try to sneak it through using urgency and other undemocratic means. But even in that case it will be debated and the politicians responsible can be held to account.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Interesting concept I know but I would expect a government department to have access to government held information. Not necessarily all of it but at least some of it.

  2. John Dalley 2

    I too had to received a letter after recent surgery and t o say the least was more than a little pissed.
    After sending back a initial shitty letter (by email) and then getting another letter that made it obvious that the writer had not seen my original, i rang him and vented some what in as polite a manner as i could.
    The Waitemata DHB staff member said, after i had pointed out that i was registered through my NH number for more than 40 years and to which he replied that due to the privacy laws (that one again) his department was not able to view past information, WTF!
    It seems that a new law, act, edit has rendered them unable to go back and check past history so this is why they are sending out these letters and pissing of the New Zealand public, What i am not sure, is this being done by just the Waitemata DHB or all DHB’s.

    • Ed 2.1

      Surely if someone is admitted to hospital they would expect the medical staff to have access to records from previous admissions, and that would include the results of any past checks about citizenship. It seems bizarre to block any information from a doctor treating a patient – or am I mis-reading something?

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        All medical records should be on a government database. When I go to the hospital or change doctors then I want them to have access to my full medical records so as to help them do what they do which is to maintain my health. Keeping such information from the doctors will, inevitably, result in that failing to happen as they go and (i.e.) prescribe drugs that I happen to be allergic to but which they don’t know about due to such information not being available to them.

        • Rex Widerstrom 2.1.1.1

          And on a chipped card you carry around with you so that, in an emergency, or when “the computers are down” a stand-alone scanner can bring up your medical history for an EMT or ED doctor.

          Only medical information, though, and only to be used by emergency services and hospitals.

        • Rosy 2.1.1.2

          Medical information IS available to doctors through the NHI number. It’s whether the DHB has given clerical staff access to the information that is the problem, I suspect. Given a number of cases where there has been a release of private information some DHBs maybe running scared but isn’t it up to them to sort that out, not the patient?

          I’m living in Austria for a couple of years and the method here, once access to care is established is for those eligible (citizens and residents) to present a card which is produced at each medical encounter. It is not a fully-fledged identity card, it just access to the medical system. It seems to work.

  3. BLiP 3

    What a perfect opportunity for public disobedience – in every case, let the DHB take the matter to court to try and extract payment only to be stymied by evidence of legal residency.

    • Vicky32 3.1

      I have my birth certificate and my two expired passports handy, because a scary number of potential employers (and employment agencies!) asked for them in order to do a police check!
      Like a worm, I complied in 2010, but I won’t in future. I underwent police checks when working in special education, which is fair enough, but for an admin job? Fuggeddaboudit!
      (The passports were because I don’t drive and never have, hence no licence.)
      Deb

    • jcuknz 3.2

      I hope the DHB would be awarded costs against the stupid idiots who took such a course of action.
      Utterly irresponsible.

  4. mcflock 4

    It would be interesting to see where the directive to ask for “proof of citizenship” comes from.

    Bureaucratic cockup? Idiotic legislative tweak under urgency? Or just a handy way to throw one more hurdle to jump over so that the cost spends time a)as an asset to be collected by the DHB ; b)not as a debit from the funding authority; c)actually being paid by some folk who didn’t read the fine print properly and maybe charged it to their insurance or paid it outright.

  5. hateatea 5

    The DHB are idiots. If he is on an invalids benefit he will have a community services card. In order to have on of those, he must be a NZ resident or citizen. If the local chemist and the doctor can make a telephone call to check that you have a current community services card surely the DHB can?

    Surely they only need eligibility checks for those who say that they were not born here or have not attained residency status

    I don’t have a birth certificate and my passport has been lost. Someone stole my wallet with all my identification in it and it is taking ages to replace them all but I was born here. I am mana whenua and I WILL NOT be made to prove my right to any services by petty bureaucrats such as described in the article.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Surely they only need eligibility checks for those who say that they were not born here or have not attained residency status

      Trusting people is a nice idea but, unfortunately, some people lie.

  6. jcuknz 6

    Obviously Nanny State is striking again from what John Dalley writes … or should that be Daddy State now we have a male PM? Altogether a rather foolish rant. It is common sense to hold on to these documents once you get them. As for the indignation of one of the indigenous, LOL, rather childish.
    It would so much simpler if everybody was given a number at birth or when they are granted residence … I remember mine from WWII …. WLML 124/4 or the army 22348453 Korean War period 🙂

    • hateatea 6.1

      I was prepared to get a passport to enter other countries. I don’t see why an agency of the government should need me to provide proof that I have been here all my life when I am on record since the date my birth was registered. You may call me childish because I am certainly not as old as you but I am not young either.

      Count me amongst those who will be civilly disobedient about this issue

      captcha: corrupted

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        I don’t see why an agency of the government should need me to provide proof that I have been here all my life when I am on record since the date my birth was registered.

        Prove it. And, no, that’s not prove that the records exist but that those records relate to you.

  7. jcuknz 7

    I also have the numbers of my passport and local hospital number … they appreciate being given that when I’m a guest of theirs. Also my ESTA number, all 16 digits …. to me this is all about being a responsible citizen without hang-ups about dam fool beaurocrats, we just have to live with them in a socialist sate. It is a price I am quite happy to pay to live in ‘God’s Own Country”.
    The DFBs are simply like most of us not that clever, over worked underpaid working under silly rules invented by other not so clever thinking people.

  8. Cannot think of a clever name 8

    Often when you are told that the Privacy laws prevent this, that or the other then they’re wrong. It’s typically some mega risk avoiding intepretation of what the rules just might be able to be understood as in the worst possible light. A***e covering. To be fair to the DHB many commercial organisations including banks and telcos are just as bad. For instance, the DHB could get you to allow them to confirm with the appropriate government database quite simply.

    Considering the poor, less travelled and less educated (those least likely to have the required documentation easily to hand) are overrepresented amongst the those using the DHB’s services it is pretty damn stupid though and not a conspiracy (remember hanlon’s razor). However, like any monopoly they get to set the rules so a bit tough if you need be treated on an ongoing basis.

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