Opinion

Rachel Smalley: Pharmac given 'bugger all' in Govt budget

OPINION

"The big-spending Labour government. Let's put another billion dollars into the economy. whoop"

What a budget. 

If you've been listening to this show over the last week while, you'll know how strongly I feel about our third-world access to modern medicines. 

We're shockers. 

We're bottom of the OECD. 

We die prematurely. We suffer unnecessarily. If we were to clear Pharmac's waiting list for medicines, we'd need around $450 million a year, but a lot of the patient advocacy groups and myself were talking about small steps. $300m a year would b helpful. That would get us moving towards better access. 

What did we get? Bugger all, that's what we got. They announced $191m over two years. Pharmac needs $450m a year just for the medicines on the waiting list. $450m. They got $71m. 

Even more disappointingly, only Newshub got their analysis right saying this is actually 'crumbs' -- the wider media said a great boost for Pharmac. It's not. 

Lots of messages came into me all afternoon, all evening -- people with cancers, type one diabetes, Crohn's, SMA -- the babies with spinal muscular atrophy. 

What many find challenging was the Prime Minister's comment - she said "we are nothing without our health". Indeed, we are not. The mums who have children with SMA found that particularly challenging to hear. 

But, you know what? We'll keep going. We'll keep going. Because treating illness and disease right across our society is really important. 

Thereby the grace of god we all go people. Our families. We're all just one diagnosis away from needing a medicine we don't fund. 

Meanwhile, there's a billion dollars to ease the cost of living -- that $350 dollar payment for those not already getting the winter energy payment, and earning less than $70k a year? There are housing grants, there's support for dental bills. It's all important. 

But as one cancer sufferer said to me last night - there's almost $600m to scrap old cars - and they're talking about the emissions reduction plan. But nothing for their blood cancer. 

I am trying not to be cynical here, but this doesn't feel like it's a budget for the public - it feels like a budget to influence the polls.