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Govt announces extra $27m for disability services

The Government is injecting an extra $7 million immediately and another $20 million over the next two years to reduce waiting times and meet the spiralling costs for equipment and services for disabled people, ministers announced today.The money is on top

NZPA
Tue, 02 Mar 2010

The Government is injecting an extra $7 million immediately and another $20 million over the next two years to reduce waiting times and meet the spiralling costs for equipment and services for disabled people, ministers announced today.

The money is on top of the $63 million already budgeted but even so it wouldn't be enough, Health Minister Tony Ryall said.

"Rising costs are unsustainable, even with the extra cash," he said.

"So the Government is also making eligibility criteria fairer and more targeted.

"We are also introducing more competitive, Pharmac-type processes for buying disability equipment, including hearing aids."

Mr Ryall said the number of people applying had increased by 2.5 percent in 12 months but the value of appliances had risen by 25 percent -- faster than funding could keep up with.

"For example, disabled people often use a $2000 stand-alone hoist to help them into bed or into a shower," he said.

"Now, many people are asking for the newer version that runs along tracks attached to the ceiling -- but that has a price tag of $15,000."

Mr Ryall said ballooning demand meant some people were having to wait up to 12 months for some services, and that was unacceptable.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia, who is responsible for disability support services for people under 65, said the new eligibility criteria for funding hearing aids would be introduced from tomorrow.

"For years, the taxpayer has been fully funding top of the line hearing aids, often at a cost of over $2500 for each aid, for highly-paid people like judges, doctors and senior public servants while many beneficiaries got only a $198 subsidy," she said.

"That is unfair and we are increasing access to hearing aids for severely deaf people and low income people. At the same time we are asking working people to contribute more towards their hearing aids while maintaining the same eligibility for children, students and the elderly."

Both ministers said it was critical for the ministry to develop new prioritisation tools, options around further use of co-payments and different purchase arrangements to ensure disabled people could continue to get the services they needed, when they needed them.

NZPA
Tue, 02 Mar 2010
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Govt announces extra $27m for disability services
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