7CPA was a ‘hard slog’

One pharmacy leader has highlighted some standouts for the sector in the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, as well as the “flawed” $1 discount

Writing in this week’s edition of Forefront, Pharmacy Guild executive director Suzanne Greenwood writes that the 7CPA was hard fought.

“Since arriving at the Guild, I have been on the Guild’s negotiating team for the Agreement and I can tell you it’s been a hard slog with ourselves and the Government strongly representing the interests of our respective stakeholders, and both keeping an eye on improved health outcomes for all Australians,” Ms Greenwood writes.

“It has also been negotiated against a dynamic background. When the negotiations began we had a country looking to a Budget surplus and an economic outlook which was positive.

“That all changed with a summer of bushfires and then COVID-19, and so almost overnight our economic situation reversed from a potential surplus to a multi-billion-dollar deficit.

“This naturally had a major impact on how the final Agreement would look. However, it was important to recognise that the Agreement is for the future as well as the present; and so we were robust in our insistence that this is reflected in the final outcome.”

She highlighted some positives from the Agreement, including that 60-day dispensing was not implemented.

“I thank those pharmacists who took it upon themselves to highlight to their local politicians and patients the huge negative impact such a measure would have had on their businesses,” she said.

She praised the increase in the Rural Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance, the doubling of the base cap for pharmacies providing DAAs and providing uncapped access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and new funding for these Australians.

However the fact that the $1 optional copayment discount – which was not spelled out in the 7CPA, but was also not revoked – remains is still a problem, she said.

“The Agreement is silent on the $1 discount.

“The discount has always been opposed by the Guild on the grounds that it is flawed health policy and goes against the grain of the concept of universality of the co-payment arrangement because under the discount scheme patients pay different co-payments depending on which pharmacy they visit.

“This means it discriminates against rural and remote patients and many smaller pharmacies; and it provides no net financial benefit to the neediest and sickest patients.

“As an optional discount, it is a matter for the pharmacy owner to decide an individual pharmacy’s approach to the discount – whether to offer it, match competitors, or decide that the business cannot afford to fund the discount for all scripts.

“We also note that the low take-up of the optional $1 discount reflects the fact that the sickest and neediest patients understand that it provides no net benefit for them and simply means they take longer to reach their PBS Safety Net.  

“The lowering of the threshold for the safety net earlier this year does not compensate for the problems of this.”

The Guild says it is set to brief members this month on the 7CPA – virtually this month, and face to face once borders open in July.

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