Parents welcome Budget help on visits to doctor

Free doctors' visits for under-13s has been welcomed by parents, but some believed the Government could have gone further.

Yesterday's Budget has extended free GP visits and prescriptions from the under-6s to the under-13s, starting in July next year.

Despite welcoming the news, some parents feel the Government could have extended it until age 16 or when the child leaves school.

Bell Block mum Alicia Sinclair has two children - Jayden, 12, who will be 13 before the new rules take effect, and Dayna, 5.

"It will help. We certainly think twice about going [to the doctor] when you are paying. I think the money has gone to the right place."

But she would have preferred the free GP visits to be extended until Jayden left school.

Both her children get asthma and Jayden uses Dayna's inhalers to save on medical costs, she said.

Sinclair's partner, Nathan Adamson, said they had never avoided taking their children to the doctor because of the cost.

"You just go without something so the kids can go to the doctor. It's just what you do. You are only poor for another week, then you get paid."

He would have liked to see a subsidy for visits to the orthodontist.

The family paid $6500 for Jayden's braces, Adamson said.

"Nothing is covered because it's considered cosmetic."

The couple wonder if there had been service cuts elsewhere to allow the free visits, because the money had to come from somewhere.

It was a question also being asked by New Plymouth's Kris White.

"What other parts of health are missing out? It must be affecting other things that need tax money."

However, she was pleased with the news. "If you take your child to the doctor, you can spend up to $50, including prescriptions, so anything helps."

But she, too, would like to see it extended until the child leaves school.

Hannah Swinbourne of Urenui has two children aged 10 and 6, and says the cost of trips to the doctor adds up.

The change will give her more flexibility when she is not sure just how sick her children are.

"The main difference will be when they are kind of borderline, and I'm not sure if they have a virus or something else. It will remove the doubt, though if I was worried enough I would go anyway."

The support would be encouraging for parents who might otherwise hesitate to get their children checked out, she said.

Overall she thought the Budget was "quite heavy" for lower-income families and families with young children.

"We're not in either of those brackets. We're probably in the middle."

She thinks the thresholds for family assistance should be raised a bit more to cater for working families who are struggling, but just miss out.

Taranaki Daily News