Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders could end up being charged more for GP visits after the botched the rollout of Labour’s election policy to make GP visits cheaper, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“Labour’s GP policy has been a mess from the start. It was rushed out in response to National’s pledge, meant to be rolled out by July and meant to make GP visits cheaper.

“But for the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who don’t have a Community Services Card, doctors’ visits could actually be more expensive from tomorrow. This is in marked contrast to the promise made during the election campaign that all New Zealanders would see a reduction in GP fees.

“That’s because the government funding for doctors’ visits for adults with a Community Services Card is capped at well below the cost to some practices of these visits. So to make up for the shortfall, these practices have been told by the Government that they should increase the consultation fee for patients without a Community Services card.

“It is unacceptable that middle New Zealanders, who are already struggling as a result of this Government’s poor policies which are driving up the cost of living, will be subsidising the Government’s botched GP policy.

“The rollout of this policy has been questionable at best. GPs were forced to opt in or out of the provision of the cheaper visits with little time to think through the consequences and impact on their practices and patients and whether or not they could cope financially. If practices decided not to opt in they would lose all funding for the free under-13 GP visits.

“A number of GPs are now worried about their ability to perform a duty of care to their patients due to the fact that they have no idea how this policy will increase their patient numbers. 

“The Minister needs to assure New Zealanders that those without Community Services Cards will not be paying more to subsidise the policy and that practices will not be facing an unfair burden.”

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