Professor slams prescription fees increase | The Jackal

15 May 2012

Professor slams prescription fees increase

Today, the University of Otago reported:

The Government’s announcement that it will increase the co-payment for a prescription from $3 to $5 per item, for up to a maximum of 20 items per year, represents a questionable trade-off, says a University of Otago public health researcher.

Professor Tony Blakely, Director of the Burden of Disease Equity and Cost Effectiveness (BODE3) programme at the University of Otago, Wellington, says the trade-off is that activities such as care coordination in cancer services and IT systems to support delivery of care will be increased.

“First, will increasing funding on care coordination – things like patient navigators – increase survival among cancer patients? Yes – and probably reduce inequalities too.

“Second, will increasing prescription part charges worsen health? Yes – and definitely widen inequalities in health by impacting more on the disadvantaged.

“Third; is the trade-off between these two policies worth it? Probably not – other trade-offs and prioritisation decisions could have been considered with a better net outcome.”


Rising part charges could be done with less impact on sick poor people by reducing the maximum number of prescriptions attracting a co-payment per year from 20 to 15, meaning that the worst case-scenario per year for a low-income person is an increase from $60 per year to $75 per year – not $100 per year. This would still be revenue-raising.

“The Government is making clear trade-offs elsewhere, for example by continuing with tax cuts for the wealthy, not increasing the age of eligibility for superannuation and not considering capital gains taxes. There are other ways of redistribution resources than using part charges,” says Professor Blakely.

This is just another wealth transfer from the poor to the wealthy who have largely squandered the money they gained from National's tax cuts. The government is now scrambling to find capital to cover extra health spending in the upcoming zero Budget... because the tax cuts for the rich haven't stimulated the economy at all.

It's far easier to increase prescription charges by 66% than to actually fix the economy.

And who is getting punished for National's fiscal mismanagement? The poor, old and unwell of course. It's always those who are least able to afford such changes that are punished by the rightwing... basically because they're less likely to fight back. Welcome to John Keys "brighter" future.