Labour's health plan 'paid for'

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 14:36 11/08/2014

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David Cunliffe is dismissing questions about the affordability of Labour's healthcare policy, saying the plan has been "banked and paid for".

At the party's campaign launch in Auckland on Sunday Cunliffe announced a plan to extend doctors visits to the over 65s, as well as free care for pregnant women.

National immediately dismissed the plan as unaffordable, saying it wasn't as comprehensive as Labour had claimed. 

Yesterday's announcement promised free GP visits and prescriptions for 1.7 million people under a Labour government, however some 200,000 of those will receive only four free doctors visits a year.

Speaking in Auckland today, Cunliffe said "In our materials we made clear that in the care plus programme, which is for people with long term serious health conditions, they qualify for four free doctors visits, that was made clear in the documents, and also that they get free prescriptions." 

Cunliffe added that the description of the benefits of the policy were "perfectly fair".

The policy had been developed using the same calculations the government had made when it announced free doctors visits for under 13s, including assumptions about increases in the number of visits and inflation.

"Our policies are all banked and paid for. It's in black and white," Cunliffe said, pointing to Labour's alternative Budget announced in June which gave the party scope for $500 million a year in new spending "from within which this comes".

During a walkabout in Onehunga, Cunliffe approached several women to ask about the benefits of the plan, one of who said she did not believe it was affordable.

Later Cunliffe said the party had debated whether to means test the free health care plans, but had decided against it even if it meant some who could afford to pay themselves were covered.

"People have paid taxes their whole lives. I'm advised that a very high proportion of our senior citizens rely upon the pension for their livelihoods so most of them are on fixed incomes," he said.

"It's not going to break the bank to extend to all over 65s."

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