Gareth Morgan has announced that he will initiate a $3m investment into addressing the unmet health needs for children from low income families.
“Last week we conducted an online poll asking what the public would do with my NZ Super if they were me. This is what you said
- Keep it and enjoy it 10%
- Don’t draw it 18%
- Spend it on charity 72%
I think the results strongly confirm the view that the public does not support NZ Superannuation going to those who don’t need it. And that is roughly half of us. $6bn per annum is a lot of frivolous spending by us, the taxpayers, and redeployed could be of huge benefit alleviating child and family poverty in New Zealand.
Indeed, that was one of the major policies from The Opportunities Party in 2017 – to halve the NZ Super bill immediately by means testing it. Those who need it would not be affected at all, those who don’t would receive only half of what they get now (hardly hardship). The proceeds would fund a UBI for all families with a child under 3 years of age, plus fund additional help for low income families.
But it needs the older middle class generation to get our faces out of the trough for that to happen and this requires us to care, think and vote. So long as we elect politicians who offer no more than sanctimonious declarations to alleviate poverty, then poverty and its associated social ailments will get worse.
The Morgan Foundation has funded a hospital in Bangladesh for many years now, one which a New Zealand doctor - the late Dr Edric Baker - founded specifically to address the bias in that country’s health system that denies access to the poor. I never thought we would see the day in New Zealand when a similar disparity denies access to so many children from poorer families. Do we not care?
The healthcare statistics reveal that 20% of all children have unmet need for primary health care in New Zealand. What makes it worse is that we have GPs clipping the ticket for care they simply don’t provide these children. GPs are funded not for the level of service they provide but for the number of patients on their books. Queues, waiting lists, delayed appointments and impossible access for poor working families conspire to ensure that the children of too many poorer families are manifestly in worse health than those of our comfortable middle class.
Our model of capitated funding of GPs – wherein a physician is paid a set amount for each enrolled person assigned to them, per period of time, whether or not that person seeks or receives care – is not working. The intention may have been admirable – to have GPs emphasising preventative care rather than maximising the number of appointments – but the reality is they’re being paid despite their patients’ home circumstances preventing them being able to seek appointments or even those that do, being denied reasonable and timely access. In the case of children, this unmet need is occurring when the charges are free.
The reasons are varied – cost, transport, poverty-induced stresses in the home, but also include delays in getting an appointment they can reasonably attend with a GP. The sector needs reform and urgently. In particular, that reform needs to clear the bottlenecks that GPs themselves are causing. Technology and devolution of tasks to paramedics are unavoidable steps if we want to remove the gridlock that occupational licensing and very inefficient GP business practices are inflicting.
One Small Step
In order to make some small contribution, I’m happy to donate my NZ Super back to those making an effort to provide better access for these children to health services, access that they should have by right.
I encourage all of those who do not need all, or even part of their NZ Super to do the same - as an expression of the care that New Zealanders have for this aspect of the generational unfairness that is gripping New Zealand. Prove me wrong, demonstrate that we are actually prepared to forgo NZ Super, the highest of all welfare benefits.
Further, in the first year I will match the contributions of the first 100 NZ Superannuation annual payments directed this way, dollar for dollar. With the resultant $3m we can provide some funding to those organisations desperately trying to improve the health of low income families.
Of course, I would hope that public concern about righting this wrong will lead to the government stepping up its efforts to eradicate the incidence of unmet primary healthcare needs. New Zealand’s public health system needs to truly be a health system for all the public.
In a month or so I’ll confirm how I’ll make this contribution and how you can help. Meanwhile if you’re keen to help and have your contribution matched, email me at [email protected]