In the 2020 general election both parties pledged to increase funding for adult cochlear implants. Labour has formed a government alone and the expectation is that their pre-election pledge will be implemented.
A copy of their election pledge can be found here;
Specifically, we note the following policy released on 29 September 2020:
FISCAL SUMMARY – LABOUR’S COMMITMENTS IN HEALTH
2021/22 2022/23 2023/24 2024 + out years
$(m) $(m) $(m) $(m)
CI 7 7 7 7
While we await Ministry information on this funding increase, we wanted to take the opportunity to brief the incoming Minister of Health about New Zealand’s current cochlear implant funding situation, the growth in community need, and the enormous personal, social and economic benefits this life-changing technology provides.
Here is a snapshot of the current situation and why the promised funding increase is desperately needed:
- A cochlear implant is the last and only viable treatment that can restore hearing, especially for those who are deaf through accident or illness.
- The wider benefits of implants can be found in a report by Deloitte, estimating the cost of hearing loss to the New Zealand economy in 2016 was $957.3 million – the majority (58 percent) of which was related to loss of productivity. The report concludes that hearing loss is a significant issue facing the New Zealand population, and those affected can experience high barriers to related services, recognition and support.
- Only 40 adults nationally receive government funding for a cochlear implant every year, despite around 200 deemed eligible. Cochlear implants are not covered by health insurance and self-funding is often well out of reach for our patients without incurring considerable debt.
- Base funding hasn’t changed in six years, despite waiting list numbers compounding year-on-year.
- New Zealanders waiting include nurses, engineers, those serving in the army, teachers, bankers, butchers, farmers, factory workers, highway maintenance people, small business owners and retail workers. Due to their loss of hearing, many have already had to give up careers and livelihoods, with considerable economic and mental health ramifications.
- Our surgeons are in despair at having to ‘play God’ with such limited funding. Despite being eligible and the implant technology readily available, too many of our patients will die before they can access one.
- For those who receive the operation, it also means returning to the workforce, resuming relationships, participation in the wider community and productive economy, and greatly improved mental health and quality of life.
A copy of the briefing provided to the incoming Minister of Health can be found below. A PDF copy can be downloaded here.