Messed priorities for health funding

Health funding is a sensitive topic for politicians. Some people say too much tax payer money goes into health care and that health care should be left to the private sector. Others say that not enough gets spent. But most agree that the District Health Boards, try as they do, have a near impossible job getting the balance right where for the money spent, the best dollar for dollar return is made.

When National took office, I was expecting that one of the first things that would get done is a centralisation of health funding more like the Health Funding Authority model of the late 1990’s. When National left office in 1999, the Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark instituted District Health Boards to regain public confidence following attempts at quasi-market oriented health funding which were often found to be taking procedural short cuts.

Perhaps credit is due to National for keeping the District Health Boards, whose three year tenure, ending with local government elections brings accountability to the taxpayer that would not have been otherwise possible. However, systemic under funding caused by budget cuts have left minimal margin for error with spending. Subsequently a range of issues that might have been avoided have now arisen, or have been exacerbated by a lack of available resources. Some of the more notable highlights are:

  • $1.7 billion being stripped from health funding according to Labour
  • 500,000 New Zealanders allegedly not being able to afford primary health care
  • Residential Medical Officers striking over dangerously long working hours of 14 per day
  • A mental health crisis brought on by chronic under funding and a lack of social understanding
  • A lengthening waiting list
  • An obesity crisis where 66% (2014, Otago University)of the adult population is overweight
  • A mental health crisis involving drugs, suicide and depression

Noting the problems mentioned above, and wondering how and where New Zealand could find the additional funding necessary/reduce costs, I have a few ideas:

  • Make medical insurance compulsory for tourists
  • Many of the people needing surgery need it for things like hip or knee replacements – a one of funding injection to treat as many of these people as possible would partially pay for itself by these people becoming contributing taxpayers once more
  • Remove junk food vending machines from all medical practices/replace with fruit/water vendors – practices should lead by example with regards to showing healthy eating
  • Reintroduce milk for school children; dental visits to schools using mobile clinics; show children how to brush teeth – keep dental bill down
  • Take G.S.T. off fruit and vegetables – I think it should stay on limited food stuffs, such as potato chips; chocolate; soft drink

Some things could be solved simply by taking ownership of the issue. My parents used to make me do my teeth again if they were not satisfied that I had cleaned them properly. I never went to bed with a 2 litre bottle of Coke by my bed. I was taught the importance of five fruit/vegetables a day. I turned out alright.


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