ON THE CARDS: Free GP visits for Gold Card holders
A New Zealand First Bill that would see people with Super Gold cards, and who draw national superannuation, get three free visits to their GP per year has been welcomed by Grey Power, NZ.
With an estimated 600,000 Super Gold card holders, the Super Gold Health Check Bill, if it became law, would add an estimated $60million to the national health cost of about $1.55billion, which would be less than 0.5 per cent of the health spend.
The Bill which was drawn from the ballot of private members’ Bills in December 2013 will be considered by Parliament when it starts sitting in February.
If the bill passes its first reading, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is expected to send it to the Finance and Expenditure committee for consideration.
National president for Grey Power, Mr Terry King said the majority of Gold Card holders would benefit greatly if the Bill becomes law as medical costs are increasing with age for most people, which include visits to the GP.
He said that on average, New Zealanders spend 10 days a year in hospital but for people over 65 there was a dramatic increase in the number that now require specialist medical treatment; and the amount of time they now spend in hospital. The average cost of a visit to the doctor was now about $35.
Mr King said most families on average income would be able to meet these costs, “but for people over 65 who are reliant on national superannuation, the frequency and costs of GP visits can be a serious financial burden.”
Mr King said many in their network have heard of cases where elderly people either put off going to the doctor or declined to pick up prescriptions from the chemist to avoid the costs.
“That simply makes matters worse when they finally go to the doctor and we need a circuit breaker to ensure these people get the medical attention they need,” said Mr King.
He added that since Labour Party policy at the September election was for free doctor visits for people over 65 he presumed they will support the New Zealand First bill when it is tabled for its first reading.
A spokesman for United Future and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said, there has been no formal briefing from New Zealand First on the Bill as yet, therefore he was unable to comment.