A Dunedin poverty campaigner is ''slightly puzzled'' by
Labour's promise of free GP visits for older people, which she
says will increasingly benefit the ''selfish generation'' of
Methodist Mission chief executive Laura Black said older
people had a much lower rate of poverty than those under 18
and the youth group should be targeted.
''I'm struggling to see the case for the older 65 subsidy.''
Labour has also promised to extend free GP visits to under
13-year-olds and promised free dental care to pregnant women.
She was pleased with these policies, but said the party
needed to go further to help young people.
Born between 1945 and 1959, the baby boomer generation was
''what's known as the selfish generation'', Ms Black said.
Targeting them with election promises reflected fierce
competition between parties for the older vote.
''It is the generation that has been best taken care of. As
far as I understand, the evidence for additional health
subsidies for those over 65 is really weak [compared with
younger age groups].''
Grey Power health national advisory group chairwoman Jo
Millar, of Dunedin, said baby boomers paid their taxes like
everyone else. The policy made financial sense by reducing
hospital admissions caused by older people deferring GP
visits, Mrs Millar said.
The baby boom generation has been criticised for removing
social entitlements like free tertiary education once they
had used them.
University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards said
Labour's policy, which would make 1.7 million New Zealanders
eligible for free GP visits, raised the question of whether
it ought to be made universal.
''It would reduce administration costs, it would reduce some
of the tensions between generations and groups, and it would
deal with the criticism that this is essentially a
middle-class policy that will advantage rich just as much as
it advantages poor.
''These policies seem designed not on the basis of need but
on the basis of electoral calculation.''
Opposition parties focused heavily on child poverty in the
last three years, but it is not shaping up to be an election
''I never entirely thought the mainstream parties would put
their money where their mouths are in terms of tackling that
problem,'' Dr Edwards said.
Clutha-Southland Labour candidate Dr Liz Craig, a public
health physician, rejected the claim of intergenerational
unfairness, citing Labour's Best Start package for families
with babies, GP visits for children, and housing and income
Many people living on the pension had trouble paying for GP
visits and prescriptions, she said.
Averting hospital admissions for conditions like pneumonia
would save money in the longer term.