The CTU have released a pre-budget health report showing a damning level of health underfunding in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The key points are:
If the health system is to be funded at equivalent levels with the addition of population demands, extra service costs and inflation…
…health budget will need to rise by an estimated total of $1,096 million (or 7.2 percent) from $15,324 million to $16,420 million.
To regain the spending power of the 2009/10 Health vote and pay for the initiatives and additional costs announced over that time, it would need to increase by $2.3 billion in the 2017 Budget to $17.6 billion.
Tomorrow — Thursday the 25th of May- the current government will not increase health vote spending by $2.3 billion. Instead, the current government will congratulate themselves for a record increase in health spending but not come close to the actual required increase. The increase will be just another to get a sniff. What should we do with these scraps?
It seems strange that we are collectively waiting in line for adequate funding to vital social services. The same situation has been happening in education and welfare. Should we all just wait and routinely ask meagrely for some more?
The current opposition in Labour and the Greens will announce that they can fix this situation. Labour have campaigned on the issue of health underfunding but as of yet have no clearly laid out plan to address the shortfall. While this will most likely come out after the budget release, any solution needs to look deeper at the issue. Addressing the $2.3 billion in health funding and shortfalls in other social spending is a start, but the issue of inequality and poor social outcomes was present in 2009 when the comparisons started. While spending has decreased compared to 2009, our society was still struggling then with growing inequality and hardship. While the expansion of social austerity has been a National initiative, we need to remember that the answer is not just to reverse the effects of 8 years of cut backs. The fabric of inequality, inequity and exploitation is historic but has just been made more obvious in recent years. The essence of this issue needs to be addressed or else we are just providing a temporary bandage or a momentary fix — something that will just perpetuate the same harms in another year.
Working people need to demand real social spending that provides for all. We should not be apologetic. We need a large scale movement that runs deeper than superficial increases to social service budgets. We need to tackle the underlying inequalities and focus on the harms that unfettered capitalism is having on a society. This will continue to harm working people until a social movement can clearly articulate this idea and build a counter hegemonic energy.