Budget 2021: Health boost for Pharmac and funding for Māori Health Authority

KEY POINTS:

• $200 million over four years for Pharmac, to help 370,000 patients a year
• $46.7 million more for primary healthcare, such as GPs.
• Almost $500 million for the first stage of the Government health reforms.
• $2.7 billion over four years for DHBs, $675m more a year
•$700 million for capital projects, such as hospital buildings.
• More funding for adult cochlear implants
• SCRAPPED: Free annual GP visits and eye checks for SuperGold card holders

Drug-buying agency Pharmac will get an extra $200 million over the next four years, a boost that will see it receive more than $1 billion a year in funding.

Advocates for those with serious disease such as cancer have long called for better funding of treatments, and Labour had promised to deliver in the last campaign.

Health Minister Andrew Little said it was one of the biggest increases Pharmac had ever had – and would help an estimated 370,000 patients a year.

The health budget also sees the first tranche of funding for the health reforms Little is implementing: allocation of $486 million to move from the DHBs model to a central Health NZ agency. The Budget also establishes the Māori Health Authority, which will be set up out of a $243 million allocation for Māori health.

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Those reforms will see DHBs eventually scrapped, but the Budget includes $2.7 billion for DHBs over the next four years. Primary healthcare will also get an increase of $46.7 million.

Little said that was needed to ensure GPs could continue to offer affordable health care as the population grew.

Scrapped: Free GP and eye checks for seniors

However, the Labour Government is scrapping a prior $197 million promise of free annual GP visits and eye checks for senior citizens, saying officials had advised it would be “of limited benefit” and the money was better used elsewhere.

That funding was one of NZ First’s gains for SuperGold Card holders in the last Government.

Cochlear implants

There is also a boost in funding to double the number of adults who get cochlear implants. Little said while children were prioritised for cochlear implants, it was important to ensure adults could also access them.

That was one of Labour’s campaign pledges and would mean 320 more people would get implants by 2025.

“For these people, this will be life-changing, meaning they can work and socialise more easily,” Little said.

The Health Budget also sees $516 million to boost the health infrastructure system, such as the patient records system, $400 million to support those with long term impairments.

There is also $100 million for air and road ambulance services.

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