Common ground


$1 being picked up

PPA has sided with the Guild and King Report recommendation to ditch the $1 optional discount in favour of a $1 reduction in co-payments for all patients

Pharmacists’ union PPA has come out in support of the policy to replace the optional $1 prescription discount with a $1 reduction in co-payments for all patients.

“As pharmacists our members care about equitable and affordable access to medicines for the whole community. We support abolishing the $1 discount and introducing a $1 co-payment reduction funded by the federal government,” said PPA President Geoff March.

This recommendation was the prime focus of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s pre-budget submission to the Federal Government this year.

PBS data published by the Department of Health in January this year for the 2017-18 financial year revealed that only 28% of eligible prescriptions were discounted.

“Clearly, the $1 discount policy has not resulted in an aggregate take-up that has meaningfully contributed to lower medicine prices for a broader population,” said the Guild.

The discount policy has reportedly been under review for a number of months by the Department of Health.

Health Minister Greg Hunt told APP 2019 delegates on Thursday that the government is continuing to work on the dollar discount with the Guild leadership.

“What we also want to do is ensure there are ways of taking the pressure off patients and as part of those discussions we will include the dollar discount,” he said.

“I know that is a very important issue to many of you, it’s been raised with me in the strongest possible way by the Guild leadership and individuals.

“We will do this as part of negotiations which will begin on the 1 July and we seek to have it concluded within six months for the end of 2019 to ensure you have security six months before the next community pharmacy agreement begins.”

“It’s really, really important for the PBS to be a universal PBS, and that’s the reason why we’ve been talking openly to all members of Parliament,” Pharmacy Guild president George Tambassis said at APP conference on Friday morning.

“The PBS was always designed to be a universal system. Unfortunately the optional discount mucks that up, it’s a flawed policy … we’ve always been against it.

“All we want is for our patients, regardless of where they live to have access at the same price for any medicine that gets on the PBS. It’s a fantastic process in this country called PBAC, we should respect that. They’ll recommend the medicines, put them on the PBS, and regardless of where you live it shouldn’t be up to the pharmacy – whether the pharmacy can afford to give you a discount or not – we shouldn’t be competing on PBS prices. We should be competing on service,” said Mr Tambassis.

“Let’s not muck the PBS up by having this optional $1 discount.”

However PPA says it mainly supports the policy as a sensible recommendation from the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation, chaired by Professor Stephen King, which found the “$1 discount has not led to equitable outcomes for consumers”.

“The King Review has sadly seemingly been forgotten by the Federal Government,” said Dr March.

“It provided a smart and well balanced pathway to reform of the pharmacy sector. Fixing the $1 discount and removing the cap on home medicines reviews are key reforms the government could act on.”

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