Older people not the most needy - Smith

Labour's plan for free healthcare to over-65s targets the wrong age group, National Party Kaikoura electorate candidate Stuart Smith says.

Along with taking the Labour Party's spending promises up to $17.9 billion, $1.3 billion above their estimate, the policy failed to look at studies on the issue, Smith said.

According to statistics, those over 65 were the least likely to avoid going to the doctor because of the cost.

However, Labour Party electorate candidate Janette Walker said many older people she had spoken to in the Marlborough and Kaikoura regions were struggling to make ends meet and were limiting their doctor visits to just getting their new prescriptions.

With low fixed incomes, juggling the cost of food, power and rentals meant they avoided going to the doctor because of an inability to pay for the service, she said.

"If older people don't go to a doctor because they can't afford the cost, they are at greater risk of their condition worsening, requiring more expensive hospital treatment."

Under the National government, the average cost of seeing a doctor had risen 24 per cent, while prescription charges had risen by 40 per cent, Walker said.

"Labour's free doctors visits and prescriptions for people over 65 makes sound sense . . . many older people tend to visit the doctor more frequently and have greater medical needs and have the highest primary healthcare costs of any age group."

The policy was part of a health care package announced by Labour leader David Cunliffe on Sunday.


The Marlborough Express