Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Medical subsidies wrongly given to non-residents

Taxpayers are unknowingly subsidising pharmacy prescriptions for tourists and international students possibly to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Consumer NZ has found.

Chief executive, Sue Chetwin, says many people in New Zealand on visitors or students permits are getting subsidised pharmacy medicines they're not entitled to. And the sums involved could be substantial. Last year, 173, 675 visitors' permits and 96, 473 student permits were issued.

Ms Chetwin says the problem stems from software designed by Medtech Global, which the company claims is used in 75 percent of primary practices.

General practitioners use Medtech's software to generate prescriptions for patients. But the software cannot identify non-residents who are not entitled to subsidised pharmacy medicines. It currently codes these patients as being eligible for subsidies.

The software fault means pharmacists filling prescriptions for visitors and students are charging them a subsidised rate. Pharmacists then claim the subsidy from the Ministry of Health. The problem also extends to lab tests. ...more

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