A politically smart policy

National announced:

A National Government will pay for 13 cancer treatments that are helping extend survival rates in Australia, by making them available to patients in New Zealand, National Leader Christopher Luxon says.

“Each year, more than 25,000 Kiwis are diagnosed with cancer and more than 10,000 tragically lose their lives. Almost every New Zealander will have some experience with cancer in their lifetime – either personally or through a friend, colleague or loved one.

“But despite the hard work and dedication of New Zealand’s trusted healthcare professionals, cancer survival rates here lag behind Australia, partially due to Australia’s broader funding of cancer medicines.

“The New Zealand Cancer Control Agency recently identified 13 treatments for lung, bowel, kidney, and head and neck cancers that provide significant clinical benefits and are funded in Australia but not in New Zealand.

“Under National, New Zealanders will not have to leave the country, mortgage their home, or start a Givealittle page to fund potentially life-saving and life-extending treatments that are proven to work and are readily available across the Tasman.

“National will allocate $280 million in ring-fenced funding to PHARMAC over four years to pay for these therapies. We think this is a better use of taxpayers’ money than paying $5 prescription fees for everyone, including those who can afford to pay it themselves.

“Under National, superannuitants and those on low-incomes will receive free prescriptions. For everyone else, the total amount any family will pay for prescriptions in a year will be capped at $100.

This is politically a very smart policy. Chris Hipkins now has to defend him getting free prescriptions, rather than funding cancer drugs. National has taken an issue they were on the back foot about, and turned it back on Labour.

Ideally National would not be dictating to Pharmac what they spend the extra funding on, but politically I understand the need to specify what the prescription fee revenue will go towards.

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