SuperGold cardholders will get a free annual health and eye check-up as part of health spending that mostly goes to DHBs that are tackling huge treatment backlogs caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.
New funding has been earmarked to roll-out a promised free annual health check-up for the country’s more than 750,000 SuperGold cardholders, including an eye check (policy that was included in the New Zealand First-Labour Coalition agreement).
That will cost nearly $13m in 2020/21, rising to an estimated $61.6m a year from 2021/22. No start date has been determined, and the checks may not be available until next year.
The huge injection of health spending largely goes to health boards and was mostly outlined in a pre-Budget announcement, including a one-off boost of $283m over three years to clear a lockdown-caused backlog estimated at 153,000 more procedures and appointments.
Covid-19 leaves the biggest mark on Vote Health but there are signs of other major events; mental health spending to address the ongoing trauma of the March 15 mosque shootings, and $20m paid to the Crown by ACC for treatment of those injured in the Whakaari/White Island eruption.
Funding has been set out for the new national cancer agency – with the Cancer Society hailing Budget 2020 as something that “could deliver the world-class cancer care New Zealanders deserve if carefully spent”.
“The $282.5m catch-up campaign for planned care and elective surgeries will be welcome news for cancer patients impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown,” said cancer society chief executive Lucy Elwood.
However, the almost $24m a year to “maintain access to primary health services” disappointed the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners, who said GPs had been left out at a time when they would be dealing with a huge number of patients who had postponed seeking care.
“I haven’t seen anything in today’s Budget that shows me a revitalised future for general practice in New Zealand but I hope that in the next few months we can get there,” said college president, Dr Samantha Murton.