Greens promise free healthcare for teens

Metiria Turei
Metiria Turei
Teenagers would get free GP visits and prescriptions under a Green Government, co-leader Metiria Turei revealed this morning.

The new policy would mean that every New Zealander under 18 years of age would get fully funded healthcare, following a promise by National in the Budget to expand free visits from under-six year-olds to under-13 year-olds.

The new policy was unveiled at the party's annual conference in Lower Hutt this morning,

Mrs Turei said the Greens want to invest $29 million a year in targeting 13 to 17-year-olds to help them access healthcare "at a crucial time in their lives".

"No child should ever be prevented from going to their GP because of the cost, even if they're a teenager," she told an audience of around 200 people.

"Just this week Bill English told a conference that he had agreed to the free doctors' visits for kids in the budget because it was cheap. 'Kids that age don't go to the doctor anyway', he said.

"Well, teenagers do get sick. In fact, they have complicated needs, like mental illness, and sexual health issues, which can damage them forever if left untreated."

The policy was designed to reduce hospital admissions, prevent unwanted pregnancies, detect and treat mental illness, and take the pressure off parents at a stressful time in a child's life.

"It's bloody hard being a teenager, no matter where you live or who your parents are. And it's bloody hard for their parents too," Mrs Turei said.

A policy paper noted that consultation fees could be up to $56 for teenagers.

The Healthy Teens, Healthy Futures scheme would allocate $21 million a year to extend free GP visits to 290,000 teenagers and abolish prescription charges.

A further $8 million would go towards helping GPs manage the extra workload. GPs could opt out of the scheme if they did not think the subsidies would cover their costs.

The policy also included a commitment to negotiating with district health boards and private clinics to ensure after-hours visits were free for all children under 18.

In a speech that was mostly focused on children, Mrs Turei also took a shot at the National Government's environmental credentials, saying they were trashing the Resource Management Act and poisoning New Zealand's rivers.

She said New Zealanders faced a stark choice at the September election.

"Voters can choose National and its Cabinet Clubs, Charter Schools and crazy hangers on, and we will all watch while a tiny few get rich as a result.

"Or we can have a truly progressive government committed to giving everyone a fair go."

Co-leader Russel Norman will speak tomorrow, when he is expected to launch the party's climate change policy.

- By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

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