21 Aug 2017

National promises to extend cheaper doctor visits for low-income families

8:45 pm on 21 August 2017

The National Party has made an election promise to extend cheaper doctor visits to more low-income families if re-elected to government next month.

In the first year after the government extended free GP visits to all children under 13, the number of GP visits by under 13s rose almost 17 percent.

Photo: 123RF

Its leader, Bill English, made the announcement in Wellington this morning, saying the extension would give an extra 600,000 people access to $18 GP visits.

National would also extend the community services card to those who received income-related rent and accommodation supplement subsidies.

Mr English said affordability was one of the biggest barriers to people going to their local doctor.

"We want to reduce the numbers turning up to busy emergency departments and also encourage people to take early action to get ahead of worsening conditions."

He said the policy would be implemented on 1 July next year and would cost $380 million over four years.

Doctors' groups have pushed for such a move, worried that half a million New Zealanders can't afford to see a GP.

The president of the College of GPs, Tim Malloy, said the pressure has worked.

"This is a political solution to a political problem and the process that is being required is for us to make it very clear to our politicians that this is not a sustainable scenario, so in that sense I think this is a very good outcome, that they have listened and acted accordingly," he said.

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