Monday, July 31, 2006

Funding Herceptin

Putting aside the debate over whether the breast cancer drug Herceptin is effective in early stage illness, the issue of funding at $70-100,000 per course is a huge hurdle. Where will the money that may save the lives of these women come from?

Perhaps the 37,000 single parents (mostly females), with school-age children only, could get off the DPB and into a job.

According to Ministry of Social Development figures, the average weekly payment is $415.

If half of these people got off the benefit for just a year the savings would be almost $400 million or at least 4000 Herceptin courses.

As it is anticipated only 300-400 of the tumour type receptive to Herceptin will be found each year, the target could be revised to a mere 1,850 DPB recipients.

Just an idea for the sisterhood to mull over.


backin15 said...

NZ has record low unemployment Lindsay, what jobs precisely were you thinking they'd take? Also, have you considered what impact this would have on childcare or is the care of these kids only relevant to you when it's absent?

I don't know what you hope to achieve with your posts Lindsay but linking access to Herceptin with the DPB appears to be just another reason to bash beneficiaries.

KG said...

"..... appears to be just another reason to bash beneficiaries."

And of course, we mustn't criticise the beneficiaries, eh?
These people get as much as I do,working from 8 in the morning till 5 at night in freezing conditions, for having laid on their backs and doing damn-all else.
30% of the income I WORK for is stolen from me to fund people who regard the dpb as a right.
Sooner or later, NZ is going to run out of cash cows for lazy people.
And, backin15, I'd remind you that we have that many beneficiaries regardless of the jobs available--the area I work in is screaming for workers right now. "record low unemployment" means that there are lots of jobs available. Or is that too complicated for you?

Unknown said...

Damn KG - you beat me to pointing out that record low unemployment = available jobs.

Backin15 - have you considered what the effects on childcare are of those working families that have both parents trying to provide for their families because of their also supporting beneficiaries. Or do you only care about those kids that are wards of the state?

Anonymous said...

The issue that seems to have been overlooked is that the pharmaceutical expects that its products be funded by governments, why else would it sell products that are unaffordable by the people that need them? That industry is also dependant on state welfare.

backin15 said...

kg: criticising and bashing are not the same thing. Lindsay appears to take any and every opportunity to mischaracterise all beneficiaries as lazy ingrates; which is simply not true.

I'm not going to get into whether your taxes are stolen or not since it's a meaningless discussion that can contribute nothing new.

I know a thing or two about labour markets so am happy to oblige, record low unemployment also means that the jobs left unfilled are difficult to fill both because of what they are, skilled and semi-skilled as well as professional, and because of the cohort that remain out of work. Often, this cohort have very low levels of literacy and numeracy and not easily employed. It's one thing to have strong demand for labour, quite another to have appropriate supply.

Feel free to dazzle me with your knowldege of labour markets.

IIQ: My family confronts this very problem daily. As a professional couple in Sydney, the availability of childcare is a major constraint on our ability to work fulltime. The availability and affordability of childcare is a major constraint on increasing the supply of labour.

I raised the issue because, as is often the case, Lindsay simply linked funding for pharmaceuticals with funding for benefits. It is simplistic and misleading. It is the kind of thing student politicians used to do when asked how they'd fund free education; stop buying frigates, stop funding armies etc. It is naive.

Building on Mark's suggestion, perhaps in Lindsay's utopian world Herceptin should simply be user pays, why stop there though... asthma medication, flu jabs, kids visits to doctors?

Unknown said...

We hit that "simplistic" word again :D

"why stop there though" - good question. Why don't we do the same as Australia, or go further and emulate the beneficiary system of Scandanavia where we have a universal health insurance system? With respect to Herceptin specifically it raises the point that if the general populace are willing to fund $5 a week to have Herceptin used in ealier stage breast cancer then this is something the cancer foundation can arrange. Why does it need the undemocratic funding from the Government?

backin15 said...

IIQ, the word "simplistic" was used with reference to Lindsay's original post only. I do think Lindsay's posts over simplify matters to suit her political argument.

The "where do we stop" question is genuine. The pharamceutical industry has a new cure every other week and, in NZ at least, advertises directly to potential consumers creating enormous political pressure on governments to fund more and more expensive treatments.

Australian tax payers earning over a certain amount, $50k for individuals, are encouraged to take out private hospital cover or pay an additional medicare surcharge of 1% on total taxable income. Perhaps that's a solution?

Anonymous said...

Health care is not a right.No matter how it will be funded it will always be rationed...tough but true.

Unknown said...

Backin15; sorry the moment I saw "that" word it didn't matter about the context you used it in it just brought a smile to my face ;D

The medicare system was specifically what I was referring to, where at least an attempt is made to run the system as if it was a private insurance system.

I fully endorse the Scandanavian approach where it actually is an insurance based system (and the dole is actually an income protection insurance scheme). Personally the "where do we stop" question actually needs to be addressed in terms of "why do we start"?

(and before that gets treated as flamebait by anyone please realise the difference between that and asking the question "do we start" - not my intent).

Anonymous said...

backin 15 - I don't agree that the jobs left are skilled and professional jobs. There are many unskilled jobs available for instance working for homecare agencies, restaurants, or even as bernardos care givers. There are jobs available but why would you want to do them when you don't have to?

The fact that some people get pregnant while on the DPB shows that some people are complacent. I see no reason why Lindsay should not be critical of a system which allows this.


backin15 said...

Gloria, Lindsay's got every right to criticise the system but I have every right to criticise her arguments when they contain false premises or other flaws or innaccuracies.

I'm sure that there's low skill jobs available that beneficiaries could take however, to attract mothers back into the workforce for any length of time, it is best to combine access to affordable and quality childcare with meaningful work that gets people ahead, not just locks them into low skill, low wage jobs. Sure they might start at the bottom, we all did, but there needs to be the prospect of advancement and skill development. Current labour market regulation and employment policy haven't yet created the conditions where this is occurring in the levels we might all hope for. They are however, far more likely to than previous policy approaches.

The goal of employment policy should not be to make the conditions of employment resemble those of unemployment.

There's a wealth of quality literature on this issue, both in NZ and in Australia. I'd recommend reading Barbara Pocock's work life colision book as a starting point.

I'm far from convinced that Lindsay wants to solve the problem, if she did she'd advocate slightly sophisticated approaches and not simply bash beneficiaries.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Back in 15, Here is a list of jobs from my local newspaper, The Hutt News;

Poultry farm staff
Customer service/ from home
Information marketing outsource work home-based
Retail staff
Early childhood educators
Features writer
Cafe staff
Process workers
Printing assistants
Office administrator
Payroll asst
Yoga instructor
Field interviewers
and more...

Around 1999 this newspaper routinely ran 1-2 pages of jobs. (I went and checked at the library just to make sure my memory wasn't deceiving me).
Today they routinely have 6-7 pages of vacancies.

If people want to gain skills and better their prospects that's up to them. The social-democrat "dead-end" job rhetoric is lost on me. Work is worthy. And if we could reduce our welfare bill and taxes in turn, everybody would be better off.

backin15 said...

Lindsay, with typical sargacity you have responded to my argument with (a) a list and (b) rhetoric.

I'd guess that over half the jobs you list require relevant qualifications which directly relates to the point I made earlier, a point you've either not understood or ignored, which is: citing high demand for labour simply does not meant there is no excuse why DPB recipients can't or won't get work.

It might be counter intuitive but skill and labour shortages can coexist with high levels of training and structural unemployment.