Tauranga organisations are disappointed at the Government’s decision to increase prescription charges by $2 saying some residents will not be able to afford medication they need.
Health Minister Tony Ryall announced on Monday that prescription charges will rise from the current rate of $3 to $5 per item for a maximum of 20 items from January 1, 2013.
Age Concern Deputy Chairperson Dorothy Stewart and CEO Michael Tyrer.
It is the first time prescription charges have increased in New Zealand for 20 years.
The Bay of Plenty MP says the savings from the price increase, estimated at $20million in the first year, and $40 million in subsequent years, will help meet cost pressures and fund new initiatives in health.
Age Concern Tauranga’s deputy chairman Dorothy Stewart says the increase will only result in more costs for the health system, because elderly will not be able to afford all of the medication they need.
“I’m extremely concerned. We are already aware of people who cannot afford to pick up their prescriptions now.
“Many older people have several illnesses, so when they go to a doctor they may have several prescriptions.
“What will happen is they’ll end up in hospital.”
Dorothy says the changes are “short-sighted” and the emphasis should be on keeping older people healthy, active and living in the community.
She says this is done by maintaining their health making sure they can afford to take the preventative medication that is important.
Tauranga’s Te Tuina Whanau Support Services Trust youth worker Rangi Ahipene says the impacts of this decision will be huge for Maori and children.
He says many Maori families are on the borderline right now in terms of affordability and cannot afford to spend extra money on prescriptions, he says.
“It’s going to sink them even more.”
Rangi says he knows many people who suffer from poverty-related, reoccurring conditions, like scabies, which require on-going prescriptions and medication.
It’s denying medicine to these people – many of which will be children, he says.
Rangi says the Government needs to be far more creative with its budgeting.
“It seems like they’re taking from one section in health and topping up another section in health.”
New Zealanders currently pay $3 per prescription item up to a maximum of 20 items per family each year – after which items are free.
Tony says no person or family will pay more than $40 extra charge and prescriptions for under-sixes will be free.
He advises families get a subsidy card, which means after 20 prescriptions, the rest are free for the remainder of the year.
New Zealand’s prescription charges will still be lower than Australia’s, where standard prescription charges can be up to NZ$45.
Tony says despite tight financial times and a zero Budget on May 24, health will receive a big funding boost from savings within health and across the Government’s accounts.
The Budget will provide $101million of extra funding over the next for years for more elective operations and scans, and improved cancer services, he says.