NSW election: Mike Baird promises free medicine for chronically ill

Mike Baird
Under premier Mike Baird’s plan to scrap copayments, those to benefit would include patients with hepatitis, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cystic fibrosis, psoriatic, severe allergic asthma, HIV and rheumatoid arthritis. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

People with serious illnesses such as juvenile diabetes, cancer and severe asthma will reportedly get free medicine thanks to a Baird government plan to scrap copayments for public patients if it’s re-elected.

A re-elected government will absorb the $76m being paid out by tens of thousands of patients to access highly specialised drugs, News Corp Australia reported on Sunday.

Premier Mike Baird is set to announce the policy at the NSW Liberal party campaign launch in Sydney on Sunday, saying it would “ease the financial burden on families fighting cancer and other serious illnesses”.

Under the existing regimen, public patients must pay $37.70 for each script to access medication classified in the Highly Specialised Drugs category, or $6.10 concession.

Those to benefit include patients with hepatitis, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cystic fibrosis, psoriatic, severe allergic asthma, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and rare diseases.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows the NSW Coalition is heading for a clear victory in the upcoming NSW election with 54% support over 46% for Labor on a two-party preferred basis.

The Galaxy Research poll shows Baird is set to win next Saturday despite more than 40% of voters opposing his plan to privatise poles and wires.

The majority of Coalition supporters surveyed on 18-19 March backed the plan with 63% in favour, but 80% of Labor voters were against privatisation.

The poll found 42% of voters were less likely to support the Coalition due to the plan, with 39% saying it would not influence their vote and 13% saying it made them more likely to support the Coalition.

The poll showed support for the Coalition has dropped since the 2011 election from 51.1% to 45% while support for Labor has risen from 25.6% to 36% and the Greens are unchanged at 10%.

Opposition leader Luke Foley said he won’t back down on his anti-privatisation stance of electricity polls and wires, even if he loses next Saturday’s state election.

He says Baird will probably have control of the NSW upper house chamber as well if he wins the vote.

But if by some quirk he doesn’t control the upper house, Labor will not be moved.

“We will vote for the settled policy of the Labor party,” Foley told Sky News on Sunday. “That will be our position … in the next parliament, win, lose or draw.”