The National Party says it will reintroduce the fee for contraception prescriptions if it wins the election.
The Government this month moved to scrap $5 prescription fees, costing about $154 million a year. It was the centerpiece in the Budget and free prescriptions will kick in from July 1.
National has said it would reinstate the co-payment fees but would look at carve-outs for Gold Card holders, and low-income earners with Community Services cards.
Leader Christopher Luxon told Newshub on Wednesday he was not looking at a carve out for those who need regular contraception prescriptions. They would return to paying the $5 fee.
“We don’t want to see any change … We are making sure we can help with people who desperately need help with their prescription charges. We want a targeted approach.”
He did not consider people needing regular contraception prescriptions filled as having “high medical needs”.
“What we’re trying to say is we’re targeting it really clearly to people who are in desperate need. And if people are in that criteria and they actually need help and support to do that then we should definitely support them doing that.”
When Newshub asked Luxon why people needing contraception every month wasn’t a high medical need, he said: “I’m just trying to say from a prescriptions point of view we’re taking a very simple policy and say ‘let’s target it to people who most need help getting support in actually paying for these bills’.
“We don’t want people not able to take medicine, take the drugs that they actually desperately need to get hold of.”
Luxon said it was a “different issue” when asked whether it was fair people needing contraception had to pay prescription fees.
The Health Minister said contraception was an essential part of healthcare and cost should not be a barrier.
“Medicines for mental health, epilepsy and other conditions are also essential. They’re not nice to haves,” Dr Ayesha Verrall said.
Family Planning welcomed the move to scrap prescription fees with its chief executive Jackie Edmond saying it would help young people’s access to contraception.
“For young people in particular, a prescription fee can mean the difference between picking up medication, or not.
“When it comes to critical medication like contraception, we want to remove every barrier we can and we believe that removing this fee will make a difference.”
Edmonds said the $5 fee applied to medications like the majority of contraceptive pills, some emergency contraception, some treatment for sexually transmissible infections, thrush treatment, and Mirena and Jaydess IUDS, pre-natal vitamins, hormone therapy and treatment for heavy bleeding, and prescriptions for condoms.
“Lots of what we do is on this list,” Edmond said.