Budget 2021 for Health: More money for Pharmac takes budget to $1.1 billion, cochlear implants increase

The Government is boosting Pharmac's Budget, but not by enough to fund everything on the agency's medicine wish list. 

Newshub revealed earlier this year that there are 73 medicines on Pharmac's wish list. Funding each of those drugs would cost about more than $400 million every year.

Budget 2021 includes a boost to Pharmac's Combined Pharmaceutical Budget of $200 million over four years. 

"Other than the special COVID-19 funding we provided last year, this is one of the biggest budget increases Pharmac has ever had and will help an estimated 370,000 patients a year," Health Minister Andrew Little says.

"Pharmac is another area in which National failed to take action, with funding barely keeping up with inflation. Since we've been in Government, we've increased Pharmac's Budget by almost 25 percent to a record $1.1 billion a year."

In April, the Government announced it was replacing the country's 20 District Health Boards with a single entity and establishing the Maori Health Authority. The Budget is allocating $486 million over four years to implement those reforms. 

But in the meantime, Little says we need to keep hospitals running.

"That's why we're giving District Health Boards $675 million more a year, as well as putting aside $700 million over four years for capital projects."

Primary health care is seeing a $46.7 million increase "so that as our population grows, GPs can continue to provide affordable healthcare to the people who need it most".

Budget 2021 for Health: More money for Pharmac takes budget to $1.1 billion, cochlear implants increase
Photo credit: Newshub.

The number of people getting cochlear impacts for hearing loss will almost double from 86 to 166 per year.

However, the Government won't move ahead with a policy to provide free a annual GP visit and eye check for SuperGold Card holders. That's because Little says officials believe it is of limited benefit and the nearly $200 million it would cost over four years can be better spent.

Other new health spending in the Budget includes:

  • $516.6 million to develop and run effective health infrastructure, including a national health information platform so patient records can be read by approved health professionals anywhere in the country
  • $399.2 million to support people with long-term physical, intellectual or sensory impairments
  • $100.3 million to improve air and road ambulance services
  • $13 million to complete the rollout of the National Bowel Screening Programme to its remaining six DHBs.