Patrick Gower: Budget 2022 is raining cash but a cold hard shoulder for cancer and Cystic Fibrosis

 So Budget 2022 is literally raining cash. 

 This Labour Government has set up a money tree.

 Finance Minister Grant Robertson is the pilot of a giant chopper dropping helicopter money everywhere.

 We could throw cliches about cash around all day, just like Robertson is throwing the cash around. Because while almost every Budget has some kind of bribe, this one is next level.

 It really is quite unprecedented; a $350 payment for 2.1 million Kiwis, direct to their bank account from the tax department - a $1 billion bonanza for the middle class.

 Robertson is splashing the cash everywhere: paying off the DHB debts, extending the fuel tax cut and the public transport subsidy. The spending spree goes on and on.

 It is a Budget for today’s cost of living crisis and the closely related polling crisis for the Government. It is almost like Robertson and Jacinda Ardern are desperately trying to buy things like headlines, popularity and ultimately votes - and given the largesse maybe it will work for them.

 But there is alway a “but”: this time it is a giant fail-to-deliver on Pharmac and the wonder drugs that people need to live.

 Robertson and Health Minister Andrew Little have given a cold, hard shoulder rather cold hard cash that patients require.

 Pharmac has got what the Government’s PR guff calls a ‘record-breaking” funding increase of $191 million a year. 

 It might be record-breaking but the context here is that we have among the worst spending on modern medicines in the developed world.

 And broken down it is just $71 million extra in the first year with another $120 million coming onboard in the second year.

 More context: there’s over 70 medicines on Pharmac’s waiting list to be funded, at a cost of around $400 million. 

 So the boost is not going to cover all the drugs that people are wating for, be it for cancer or Cystic Fibrosis. The long and sad story short: many modern medicines are going to remain unfunded.

 Let’s take Cystic Fibrosis and the the actual miracle drug Trikafta. 

 There’s 388 people that would be eligible for that - it costs $330,000 a year and if Pharmac did a bulk deal that halved the price that would cost $64 million a year.

 That’s a huge chunk of change out of the Budget boost and that is just one medicine.

 Up and down the country those needed unfunded medicines for cancers and other rare disorders will be doing similar calculations and praying that they fit in.

 It will place the Government in a tricky place in election year as the cries and campaigns for lifesaving drugs will continue to bang hard at them. 

 The political reality is addressing the cost of living means much more to the Government right now than helping those who need unfunded medicines.

 Just try explaining that to someone dying of cancer or Cystic Fibrosis. 

Patrick Gower is Newshub's National Correspondent