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.
BUDGET 2020: THE FULL PACKAGE AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU
• The Budget at a glance
• Audrey Young: Robertson keeps fingers crossed as he gives himself options
• Wage subsidy scheme extended by 8 weeks, now up to $14b
• Devastated tourism sector gets $400m but details are scarce
• School lunch programme boost to feed 200,000 children every day
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.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson welcomed the focus on helping keep people in meaningful jobs as a key to wellbeing, but said the Budget lacked resourcing or an implementation plan for the recommendations made by the landmark report of the mental health and addictions inquiry.
"Previous disasters have taught us there is no recovery without a strong focus on mental health. Mental wellbeing will be vital to economic recovery."
The health spending includes an extra $3.92 billion for health boards, totalling $980m per annum for four years; the one-off boost of $282.5m over three years to clear backlogs; and ongoing funding of $31.350m per annum to cover demographic changes and increasing prices.
An extra $160m will go to Pharmac, $832.5m for disability support services, and $177m to help primary community maternity services cope with rising demand and costs. Details of maternity initiatives are yet to be announced.
An extra $750m has been budgeted for capital spending by the country's 20 DHBs. Most health boards have identified infrastructure issues as a major risk to the treatment and safety of patients, including the extreme age of buildings that aren't fit for treatment purposes, with some leaky and earthquake-prone.
Earlier this week National's health spokesman, Michael Woodhouse, welcomed funding for health boards, but said DHB financial performance had "nosedived" under Labour and Covid-19 was creating more pain.
"Our DHBs have been left between a rock and a hard place by a minister who has let them sink into enormous deficits over the past two years."