In 2001, the New Zealand government commenced a program to reform the organization of publicly funded primary care services. While there have been several positive results of this reform, including the reduction of patient co-payments and the extension of the range of primary care services, the government's program was a hastily implemented attempt to place primary care, the delivery of which is dominated by private doctors, under firm state control. It was also an attempt to override preexisting arrangements. As such, the government succeeded in its goal of establishing new primary health organizations (PHOs), but there were also significant unintended consequences. As detailed in this article, these consequences include (1) the creation of a labyrinthine funding and organizational system with a variable capacity to deliver on the government's reform objectives, (2) an increase in the power and scope of preexisting doctor organizations combined with a government unable to wrest control over the setting of patient co-payment levels, and (3) an emerging lack of clarity about future directions for the primary health care sector.

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