Co-pay hikes still on the agenda

Sussan Ley
Former Health Minister Sussan Ley oversaw a difficult 6CPA negotiation process

Discount could be offset by tabled price increases to offset Budget black hole

While the federal Health Minister has been lauding the update among pharmacy of the optional $1 PBS co-pay discount, budget measures to increase patient PBS costs still remain on the table.

At APP 2016 in March Health Minister Sussan Ley quoted Department of Health data, presented to the Senate Estimates Committee that “around 79% of approved pharmacies discounted prescriptions, at least for some customers”.

In addition she aid that in January and February 2016 that 29% of all prescriptions eligible for a discount were discounted.

However the 2014/15 Federal Budget included $1.3 billion in savings over four years from increasing the PBS co-payment for general patients by $5.00 and concessional patients by $0.80.

It also increased the safety net thresholds above inflation each year for four years.

While these measures have been stalled in the Senate since the controversial Hockey/Abbott budget, the savings are still factored into the latest Budget’s costings and remain on the table, as far the government is concerned.

Indeed, withdrawing the measures would leave a $1.3bn black hole in the health budget, pharmacy sources say.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “the Government remains committed to delivering savings allocated to the measure, but is still assessing alternate policies.”

Meanwhile, other health data presented to Senate Estimates hearings showed examples of PBS listed medicines that were available over the counter for less than the concessional co-payment price.

On 24 February, Chemist Warehouse was offering Aspirin 100mg tablets and Aspirin 300mg dispersible tablets for $2.99, a price well under the $5.20 concessional co-pay price.

In addition, paracetamol oral liquid 240mg per 5ml was being sold at $4.69, while the concessional co-pay price was $5.20.

Home Pharmacy was offering paracetamol 500mg tablets for $1.99, while the concessional co-pay was again $5.20, the Department data showed.

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