Universality vs User Pays.
Who deserves high quality healthcare?
In the hours after the budget I saw headlines saying National would cancel free prescription fees, making them user pays again. I was really annoyed.
It seemed like an obvious joke to make after the budget, an absurd satirical take. Suggesting the National Party would respond to the budget by cancelling free prescription fees for all. Bugger, someone beat me to the joke. Fair play I thought, they practically are that ridiculous at the moment, it was almost believable.
It eventually dawned on me that the headlines were real, it was true!
In and of itself the removal of free prescriptions would not be the end of the world. Although it would have meant a few extra dollars to the growing number of people on a tight budget. To some though, it would’ve meant a lot, as my friend Juliet explains:
The free prescriptions are more than the consumer saving $5 each prescription. Since Covid l've had multiple pharmacists complain to me about the government (over the counter) as they feel the squeeze. Countdown and Chemist Warehouse have been taking the bread and butter customers away from the pharmacies that service the community, it's a very real problem.
For someone like myself who is a high user with limited income it’s not $5 now and then, it's $20 for 4 scripts most times. I would rather support my local pharmacy and not have to travel out of my suburb, especially with repeats. But neither can I afford to be charitable out of a sense of loyalty. Its a bigger picture here. If Nicola Willis wants to scrap that she's actually going to be losing a demographic (albeit a small one) that would be voting National anyway.
The bigger concern is that if this is the attitude of National towards something as simple as a prescription charge, then what about wider healthcare costs?
Because not only are they planning to cut funding for prescriptions, but the way they are talking about this it sounds like they are trying to make a principled stand out if it. A principle that sounds awfully like an ACT view on the world. One that says - if you’ve got the money then you should pay for the prescription. A principle that indicates they do not believe in universal access to free healthcare.
Let me say that again, because it is quite an interesting statement of fact.
National do not believe in universal access to free healthcare.
Some might say fair enough, if you’re got money then you should pay. They probably also believe that National/ACT will provide a basic level of healthcare for those who can’t afford to pay. They will, but the key is the word “basic”.
We all know there is already a gulf in this country between those reliant on our free public health system and those who can afford private medical insurance.