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Budget 2023: GPs are the heart of healthcare, but little specific support shown

This year’s Budget, “Support for today, building for tomorrow”, is focused on flood and cyclone recovery, and rightly so. However, despite the finance Minister’s comment about “expanding GP services” it is hard to see where that attention has been applied.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners welcomes the announcement of $20 million to lift immunisation and screening coverage for Māori and Pasifika, as well as the removal of the $5 prescription fees for all New Zealanders. “All of our members will have patients who struggle to pay for their prescriptions and removing this barrier is good news,” says College President Dr Samantha Murton.

Social determinants of health are another area where attention has been applied and this is essential to lifting the burden on the delivery of health services, especially in the community.

However, the College is disappointed to not see more immediate support for the sustainable delivery of medical care in the community through GPs, rural hospital doctors and their teams.

Currently, 95 percent of Kiwis are enrolled with a general practice, and 90 percent of medical problems dealt with in general practice.

Dr Murton says, “The earmarked $118 million to help reduce waiting lists by ‘improving patient flow and enabling planned care to be delivered in primary care’ sounds good in theory, but serious attention needs to focus on growing the number of GPs and rural hospital doctors being trained as specialists, supporting their wellbeing, and supporting those thinking of retirement to stay in the profession.

“There have been some steps to support training with Minister Little’s announcements last year but there is much more that can be done. We need to have a solid plan in place and significant investment to grow our own workforce.

“To highlight the urgent need for more GP investment,

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Bill supporting mental, behavioral healthcare coverage heads to Gov. Stitt’s desk

The full Senate gave final approval to legislation on Thursday that would ensure Oklahomans have access to mental and behavioral healthcare in a timely and more affordable manner.

Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, authored Senate Bill (SB) 254, which requires insurers to arrange such care quickly with an out-of-network provider if such care is unavailable in-network.

“In a mental health crisis, getting proper care can be a matter of life and death. This will require insurers to help patients arrange mental health care when they can’t find timely services on their own,” Garvin said. “This reform will make sure Oklahomans can get the help they need quickly and without the higher costs associated with out-of-network care. This will make Oklahoma a leader in mental health care.”

Under SB 254, should a patient not be able to find the necessary in-network mental and behavioral healthcare, the insurer will be required to arrange the necessary care out-of-network. The bill prohibits costs for out-of-network care from being passed onto the patient outside of their normal deductible and copay. Each health plan will also be required to have a documented procedure to assist a plan member in accessing out-of-network behavioral healthcare.

SB 254 also allows the Oklahoma Insurance Department to see the procedure if they have to investigate an instance of a failure to ensure coverage. Lastly, the bill will also allow telehealth services to be used when deemed medically appropriate.

Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, authored the bill while in the House.

“When mental health services are unavailable in a reasonable timeframe, Oklahomans suffer,” Boatman said. “By requiring a matching rate for in-network providers when care is provided out-of-network in these situations, Oklahomans across the state can receive the assistance they need without worrying about the cost

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