Healthcare is expensive. National has lost no opportunity crowing about ‘record spending’ of $14.7 billion in this year’s Budget. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. This National Government has in fact continually underfunded health care relative to real need, this year alone by $232 million. How so? We are getting older, more overweight and more unequal year on year – which translates into major health service demand. Baby boomer’s joint operations are due right at the time that renal dialysis for diabetes patients is short, and the A&E is jammed with preventable infections from poor housing. This is happening around the developed world – but if we don’t act now, our health system will collapse, with the medical costs for diabetes alone projected to top $1.8 billion by 2021.
The truth is, to date, we’ve had very low healthcare spending of under $US 4,000 per capita comparable to our health outcomes. This bargain is due to our no-fault ACC social insurance system, our powerful drug bargaining entity PHARMAC, and our historically strong investment in public health and social welfare to provide the necessities of food, warmth and shelter for all. Check out these posters from the 1940s – ‘Children’s Health is the Nation’s Wealth!’ they proudly proclaim.
Unfortunately, these are exactly the factors eroded by this National Government. The Minister of Social Development says it’s too ‘complicated’ to measure child poverty but estimates put it at 260,00 young, deprived citizens. The wider health and economic debt we are incurring can only be imagined. ACC contracting changes are the first step towards privatisation after years of costly culture failings. The TPPA secret negotiations threaten the purchasing power of PHARMAC. Our long-term investment in social institutions needs topping up.
That is why the Green Party is investing in our healthcare system to meet real need, to the tune of $3.085 billion by 2018. This is instead of National’s election spending promises, because we know healthcare will pay greater long-term dividends than tax cuts or holiday highways. Additionally we have made a $1 billion commitment to reduce child poverty. This includes putting in an extra $21 million for free GP visits and prescriptions for everyone up to 18 years of age; to stop chronic lifestyle diseases in their tracks, before they cost us more in hospitals. We have action plans to tackle diabetes and heart disease across the whole population. Our Healthy Homes package builds on our successful fiscally positive ‘Warm Up NZ’ insulation scheme, which we will extend.
We know ‘healthcare’ can only put expensive bandaids on problems caused by unhealthy lifestyles and poor living standards. This has deeply important economic implications – and is why the fallacy of progressive governments ‘running up debt’ is fiscally incorrect and conceptually wrong. It’s just that National’s debt is hidden in plain sight, in the wards of Starship and the houses of Christchurch East. Children’s health is still our nation’s wealth- and we intend to protect both.