Could a reduction in out-of-pocket costs for PBS scripts help alleviate Australians’ growing concerns about the cost of living? The Pharmacy Guild believes it could
This week Fairfax media outlets reported that health care is no longer Australians’ top worry: it’s been replaced by cost of living, according to the Ipsos Issues Monitor survey.
The regularly-conducted survey asks Australians to nominate their top three concerns, and as reported by Matt Wade, cost of living has now been the biggest worry for more than a year.
This is the first time this has happened over the decade-long lifetime of the survey, he writes.
The Pharmacy Guild responded to the data by stating that it indicates the time is right to address voter concern about both health and the cost of living.
This should include the $1 across-the-board reduction in PBS copayments that the Guild called for in its pre-Budget submission, it says.
The Guild says its proposal would make medicines more affordable for all Australians.
The $1 drop in price for concession cardholders would result in a 15% reduction in the $6.50 out-of-pocket costs for PBS prescriptions for these cardholders and pensioners.
“Reducing patient out-of-pocket costs will make it easier for low income earners to afford the medicines they are prescribed, leading to better Quality Use of Medicines, improved health outcomes and reduced incentive to ration,” it says.
“ABS survey data has shown that one in eight Australians with fair or poor health delayed getting or did not get prescribed medication due to cost in 2016-17.
“There is a body of clear evidence demonstrating that medication non-adherence places a significant cost burden on healthcare systems, increasing overall Government expenditure on health.”
The proposal would also see the abolition of the controversial optional $1 discounting of the PBS copayment, which the Guild says currently only applies to 28% of scripts.
People in rural areas, for example, are currently likely to pay more under the optional $1 co-payment discount than their counterparts in metropolitan areas.
“Reducing the PBS co-payments ($6.50 for concession cardholders and $40.30 for general patients) by $1 across-the-board would make medicines more affordable and also restore equity and universality to the PBS,” the Guild says. “All patients would benefit as it would apply to 100 per cent of eligible scripts.”
National president George Tambassis said that “Currently we have concession cardholders in different parts of the country paying different prices for the same subsidised medicine. This measure will fix that, making it fairer for everybody”.
The Guild pointed out that the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review unanimously recommended the abolition of the optional $1 discount, stating that it was inequitable and did not enhance competition.