Less than 10% of consumer respondents to a King Review survey deliberately chose a pharmacy to obtain the $1 copayment discount

The controversial optional $1 copayment discount has not been a key driver of pharmacy choice, according to an externally-produced report for the King Review, which examined consumer attitudes, expectations and experiences of consumers interacting with community pharmacy.

Participants were asked whether they had benefited from the discount, which has been opposed by the Pharmacy Guild since its inception.

The report found that participants who visited a pharmacy on a weekly basis (28%) were significantly more likely to agree that the $1 discount had been of benefit to them or someone they care about, compared to those who visited pharmacy less often (19% at least once a month and 12% less than once a month).

In contrast, however, 62% of participants who work in a role that requires the use of pharmacy services were significantly more likely to disagree that the discount had been of such benefit, compared to other health professionals and members of the general public.

“Among the 20% reporting having benefited from the $1 discount to the PBS medicines co-payment, a larger proportion indicated that the discount had been applied to medicines for which they would have been charged the concessional co-payment (61%), than indicated that it had been applied to medicines for which they would have paid the full co-payment (50%),” the report found.

“Participants older than 30 years (53% of those aged 30 to 49 years and 59% of those aged 50 to 69 years) were more likely to have had the discount applied to medicines for which they would have paid the full (non-concessional) co-payment compared to those younger than 30 years (22%).”

Only 8% of participants reported having specifically selected a pharmacy in order to obtain the $1 discount.

“Members of the general public (11%) were significantly more likely to have reported having specifically selected a pharmacy to obtain the $1 discount than other health professionals/practitioners and those who work in a role that requires the use of pharmacy services (11%, compared to 3% for both other health professionals and those who work in a role that requires pharmacy services).

“Weekly pharmacy users were more likely than less frequent pharmacy users to have chosen a pharmacy in order to obtain the $1 co-payment discount (10%, compared to 4% of those using a pharmacy less often than once a month).”

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild told the AJP that the low uptake of consumers seeking pharmacies offering the $1 discount highlighted that the fact it could affect consumers’ Safety Net was a real concern.

“Consumers recognised that the $1 discount simply made the Safety Net threshold harder to reach,” the spokesperson said.

An option presented in the King Review interim report was abolition of the optional discount.

The Guild stated in its submission to the Review that: “On the interest of PBS universality, the pharmacy funded optional $1 discount should be immediately abolished.”