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  • rmacculloch

Seymour should've never politicized Pharmac by making National's Biggest Fundraiser, Paula Bennett, its Chair.

I thought the ACT Party was meant to stand for meritocracy, something that has been missing in this country the past six years. I though ACT was meant to stand for the ideal of an independent Central Bank, run by monetary policy technocrats whose sole focus is to achieve price stability, which is a job that requires technocratic, not political, skills. I thought ACT wanted the best drugs purchased to ensure the highest level of health & well-being, without politicians, their spin-masters, pollsters & communications experts influencing what drugs to purchase based on their reaction to the latest Newshub, Stuff, or Herald headline. In the past weeks, primarily due to a ferocious media reaction to the Budget in which it was claimed that the Coalition did not fund a bunch of cancer drugs Finance Minister Willis had promised it would, National and ACT went into massive damage limitation mode.

The problem National & ACT's Associate Health Minister David Seymour ran into is that Pharmac makes drug purchase decisions independently of what politicians may like in order to get good headlines. Pharmac uses tools like working out the additional Quality Adjusted Life Years that different drugs offer. Since our politicians don't have knowledge of this field, independence is appropriate. Hence, even allocating more bulk funding to Pharmac doesn't guarantee it will buy the particular drugs Willis promised. She was never in a position to make those specific promises.

That's when the Coalition activated Plan B, called "Paula Bennett". Back in April of this year, Seymour announced Pharmac's Chair would be former National Party Deputy PM, Bennett. She has no expertise in the techniques used for medical purchases. She does have expertise in political fund-raising. Bennett was one of National's biggest fundraisers leading up to the last election. Seymour stated, "As chair, Paula will lead the Pharmac board in their role of managing the pharmaceutical schedule .. for NZers." These past weeks, there was a pressing political need to manage that schedule in favour of getting the Coalition out of a political mess. The PM & Seymour should've never put a prominent politician aligned with themselves to head Pharmac. It has taken away Pharmac's independence. How do we know the extra money announced yesterday for Pharmac is not simply going to buy drugs that give the new Coalition better news headlines, rather than to where need is greatest?

This has been a disgraceful episode for National & ACT. Jobs for the boys & girls. Turning our drug agency into a tool of politics - all at the same time when the Reserve Bank Chair was reappointed by Willis, after she has spent the past three years attacking the RBNZ for screwing up our economy. If the Coalition loses support from folks that want them to succeed, like this Blog, they'll lose everyone's support. Then the country will be truly stuffed.


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