20 May 2021

Budget 2021: What the government plans to spend on the health system

3:00 pm on 20 May 2021

The government's massive overhaul of the country's health system will cost more than half a billion dollars - just to get started.

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Minister of Health Andrew Little says Pharmac is getting one of its biggest ever budget increases. Photo: Dom Thomas

It is one of the big new spending items in this year's health budget, funding the scrapping of the country's 20 district health boards and the setting up of the system that will replace them.

Among the $486 million to start the transition, is $98m to establish the new Māori Health Authority.

The Authority will get a further $127m for the initial programmes it will fund for healthcare and illness prevention directly to Māori.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson said that would increase as the authority became more established.

The announcement is part of a $4.7 billion dollar increase in health spending over the next four years.

About $2.7b of that will go to district health boards to run much of the health system, which they will have to do before they are phased out, along with $700,000 for buildings, facilities and technology.

Pharmac will get an extra $200m over four years - falling short of the $1b campaigners had been seeking to improve access to the latest drugs for New Zealanders who need it.

But Minister of Health Andrew Little said it was one of the biggest budget increases Pharmac had ever had, excluding last year's special spending for Covid-19.

And there will be more than half a billion dollars towards health infrastructure, with most going towards a new IT systems to links patient records across the country.

As in many aspects of the budget, Covid-19 features heavily in health spending - keeping the country free from the virus is listed as one of the government's three budget priorities.

There will be $333m to keep managed isolation hotels running and, an already announced, $1.4b on the vaccine roll out.

Pacific health providers get $16m to deliver services directly to their community, after a year where many led Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and support in lockdowns in Auckland.

Many have called for greater autonomy to do that all the time.

Senior New Zealanders will lose a perk that was in the pipeline.

The annual free GP visit and eye check for Supergold card holders were promised, with the help of New Zealand First, has been scrapped before it even began, Little said it was of limited benefit and the $197m set aside over four years could be spent better elsewhere.

There were indirect health measures in other areas of the budget, like funding for healthy homes and initiative to try to reduce poverty.

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