Consumers are choosing the Medicare Safety Net over the $1 script copayment discount, says pharmacy consultant Peter Feros, who has financial interests in Cincotta Discount Chemist.
“In the 12 pharmacies in which I have a financial interest and in the Cincotta Discount Chemist franchise pharmacies, almost all safety net customers have chosen to pay the $6.20 co-payment so that they reach the safety net sooner,” Feros told the AJP.
“These consumers were well informed of the availability of the $1 discount before it became available on January 1st 2016.”
The three Canberra pharmacies in which Feros is a partner informed their customers about the availability of the copayment discount via large window signs and ceiling decals.
Meanwhile the Cincotta Discount Chemist franchise told consumers about the upcoming discount in a full pay notice in the franchise’s late November 2015 catalogue.
“All the pharmacies identified their customers who reached the safety net in 2015,” Feros says. “When these customers brought in prescriptions at the start of the 2016 safety net period, the pharmacist took the time to explain the options available to the consumer.”
The pharmacists explained that the consumers will be paying the same dollars to reach the safety net, but at $5.20 copayment instead of $6.20, the customer had to have dispensed 12 additional scripts to get to the Safety Net and to free prescriptions.
Feros says that almost all safety net consumers “exercised their freedom of choice to pass up the $1 discount in favour of reaching the safety net sooner”.
He cites the experience of Griffith pharmacist Nathan Sergi, manager of Summit Discount Pharmacy Griffith, who has been explaining to customers that there are three parties to the PBS copayment changes.
“First the pharmacy, which is providing the $1 discount out of its income,” says Feros.
“Secondly the consumers, who needs to have more prescriptions dispensed to get to the safety net and free prescriptions.
“Thirdly the government, which can reduce prescription subsidies as fewer consumers reach the safety net and/or take longer to reach the safety net.
“Nathan reports that 100% of the safety net customers in the pharmacy took up the $6.20 copayment option.
“The customers agreed with Nathan that of the three parties only the government could be a winner.”
Sergi has also reported to Feros that if the full ramifications of these PBS co payment changes are not explained to consumers, they may change pharmacies.
A regular, safety net customer of Sergi’s pharmacy brought the repeat of early January prescriptions which had been dispensed in a larger regional centre.
“The pharmacy in the regional centre has simply provided the $5.20 discount and not explained the ramifications to the customer,” Feros says.
“When Nathan explained how the customer would now need more prescriptions dispensed to get to the Safety Net, the customer was very angry that the safety net ramifications had not been explained and, more importantly, said: ‘I am never going back to that pharmacy’.”
Discussions of the PBS copayment changes have also highlighted the value customers place on pharmacist services, Feros says.
Feros’ partner Ben Thurlow of Fords Discount Pharmacy Newtown reported a discussion with a regular customer who enquired whether the Government was reducing the prescription copayment by $1.
Thurlow confirmed that the copayment could be reduced by $1 but that the government is not providing the discount, which is coming out of pharmacies’ pockets.
“Ben, that’s not right, as you look after me so well I won’t take the discount and will pay you the $6.20,” the customer told Thurlow.
“The appreciation of a community pharmacists services expressed by this customer has also been
reported from other pharmacies,” says Feros.
“This response is not surprising considering how survey after survey, year after year, decade after
decade, community pharmacists are rated by consumers in the highest ranking for trust and