Discounting, delisting to affect Safety Net: Guild


$1 pharmacy discount: single dollar coin

All Australians need to be aware of the impact that Federal Government changes to the PBS will have on the number of prescriptions they will need to fill in order to reach their Safety Net entitlement, the Guild says.

In a statement today the Guild reminded Australians that from 1 January, pharmacies will have the option to discount the PBS co-payment paid by patients by up to $1 per prescription.

“However the amount that is discounted will not count towards a patient’s Safety Net entitlement,” it says.

“This means that Concessional patients who choose to receive a full $1 discount will need to fill an additional 11 prescriptions during the year to reach their Safety Net and access free medicines.

“These patients will receive no net annual benefit from the $1 discount. They will reach their Safety Net later in the year and be on the Safety Net for a shorter length of time.”

As a result, the Government predicts that it will save $373 million over four years from its introduction of the $1 discount, which is actually paid for by pharmacies, the Guild says.

“It is important that Concessional or pensioner patients are made fully aware of the flow-on impact of the $1 discount on their Safety Net entitlement,” it says.

“Otherwise many Concessional patients are likely to take the discount, not realising that it delays their access to the Safety Net – when they start receiving free medicines.

“Already, we have seen one large pharmacy discounter spruiking the $1 discount in the public arena without mentioning its Safety Net impact on Concessional patients.

“This has the potential for patients to think they are benefiting when they are actually no better off over a 12 month period.”

At the same time as introducing the $1 discount, the Government is delisting from the PBS a number of medicines that are also available over-the-counter (often in smaller quantities) without the need for a prescription, the Guild reminded Australians.

These delisted medicines include a range of paracetamol products (such as Panadol Osteo), as well as certain aspirin tablets, antacids, chloramphenicol eye products, hydrocortisone skin creams and ointments, iron/folic acid supplements, electrolytes, urine test strips and Vitamin B12 injections.

“As they are being delisted, these medicines will no longer count towards a patient’s PBS Safety Net threshold,” the Guild says. ‘To compensate, patients will need to fill additional prescriptions to reach the Safety Net.

“For example, in 2015, a Concessional patient on eight medicines a month including Panadol Osteo reached the Safety Net in August after 60 prescriptions. In 2016, the same patient will only have seven prescriptions a month contributing to their Safety Net.

“If this patient has all PBS prescriptions discounted by $1, they will need 71 prescriptions, and reach the Safety Net in early November.

“It is vital that all patients are made fully aware of the impact of the Government’s 1 January PBS changes on their Safety Net entitlements.

“The Pharmacy Guild will be ensuring that its members are provided with the necessary materials to have these conversations with their patients.”

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