Health Minister Dr David Clark says new data showing a sharp drop in the number of people who can’t afford to visit their GP is a sign of real progress.
One year after the Government made it cheaper for about 600,000 Kiwis to visit their doctor, results of the New Zealand Health Survey show that 57,000 fewer adults are now putting off visiting the doctor due to cost compared to the year before. That’s close to a ten per cent reduction.
There was more good news, with 33,000 fewer adults putting off after-hours visits and 50,000 fewer reporting cost as stopping them from picking up their prescriptions.
Health Minister Dr David Clark says those results show that Government policies are making a positive difference in people’s lives.
“In a country like New Zealand no one should have to put off going to the doctor when they’re sick, and it’s heartening to see we’re making progress.
“We know cost has been a barrier to health care for many. That’s why from 1 December last year we cut the cost of going to the GP for more than 540,000 Community Services Card holders by an average of $20-30. Another 61,000 13-year olds also became eligible for free general practice visits.
“Ministry of Health data shows CSC card holders are benefiting from this. In the seven months since 1 April this year around three-quarters of Māori, Pacific and high needs patients have engaged with their local general practice at least once.
“At the same time as we’ve made it cheaper for so many to visit their GP, our Economic Plan also means working New Zealanders have more money in their back pockets. Wages are rising at their fastest rate in a decade, while unemployment is near record lows.
“Government policies have seen the minimum wage rise and by the time the Families Package is fully rolled out, hundreds of thousands of families will be getting an extra $75 a week.
“All this means that more people are able to afford GP care when they need – and the more we can pick up and treat health issues early, the better for everyone,” David Clark said.