Health Minister spruiks dollar discount

hand out for money - coins in palm

Hunt has responded in Parliament to a petition to extend government payment of s100 co-payments citing state and territory jurisdiction, the PBS and the $1 pharmacy discount

In February this year a petition from 360 Australians called on Health Minister Greg Hunt to extend the NSW co-payment arrangements for Section 100 (s100) drugs to all Australians.

Since October 2015 the NSW government has paid for patient co-payments for s100 medicines, including non-PBS subsidised s100 injectable and infusible chemotherapy medicines and PBS subsidised s100 highly specialised drugs, for NSW residents who are patients of public hospitals in the state or authorised NSW community prescribers.

“[We] request that the House [of Representatives] consider extending to all Australian citizens the NSW arrangements introduced in 2015 for the payment of co-payments for those suffering from cancer and chronic illness,” reads the petition.

“Chronic disease knows no barrier in terms of race, colour, creed, where you live or your status in life.

“Australian citizens pay taxes and Medicare federally, and as such all Australian citizens should receive the same preferential benefit that has been allowed to be introduced in NSW.”

The s100 co-payments assist people living with cancer, as well as those with conditions such as HIV, patients with organ and tissue transplants, schizophrenia, hepatitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cystic fibrosis, psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis, and severe allergic asthma and rare diseases, particularly those affecting children, including juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the petitioners point out.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt has recently responded to the petition in Parliament, saying through the PBS the Australian government already subsidises the cost of medicine for most conditions.

He also pointed to the $1 discount option available through pharmacies.

“In 2017-18, expenditure on the PBS was more than $10 billion,” he says.

“To help meet the cost of the scheme, patients pay a co-payment for their medicines and the Australian government pays the rest of the cost.

“The government funds the majority of the cost of PBS medicines for Australians and at this time there is no intention to remove PBS co-payments,” says Minister Hunt.

“It should be noted that since 1 January 2016 the Australian government has provided pharmacists the option to discount the PBS co-payment by up to $1 providing further savings to consumers”.”

The Pharmacy Guild has called on Minister Hunt to remove the controversial policy and instead reduce PBS/RPBS co-payments by $1 for all patients in its pre-budget submission.

However while the minister has not agreed to remove the discount, he told APP2019 delegates that he will consider the Guild’s concerns in upcoming negotiations for the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement.

Minister Hunt continues: “States and territories are responsible for providing and funding public hospital services, including the supply of medicines to admitted patients”.

The Australian government also provides significant funding to states and territories to assist with the cost of providing hospital services, including access to subsidised PBS medicines through the Pharmaceutical Reform Agreements (PRAs), he says.

Separate the PRAs, the Australian government subsidises treatments for some cancers and chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and HIV through the PBS s100 Highly Specialised Drugs program.

Minister Hunt says in NSW, the “co-payment arrangements are measures put in place by the NSW government specifically for NSW residents and health facilities (excluding private hospitals).

“The NSW model of funding the patient co-payment for s100 medicines is a decision for each state and territory government to consider.”

He points out that the ACT established a similar program in 2018.

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