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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2 Comments

  1. Michael Ortiz
    11/04/2019

    Politicians just don’t get it!!
    We are having the wrong discussion. All this hot air over a $1.00 discount when the real problem is that the copayments have become a financial barrier to the access of PBS medicines.

    So the solution is to put another bandaid on top of all the other bandaids, when we should really take them all of and start again!!!

    Price disclosure reforms to the Pharmaceutical benefits Scheme (PBS) have resulted in drug prices falling, while patient copayments have kept rising. High PBS copayments may be adversely affecting patient access to treatment. Could patient copayments and the SafetyNet (SN) be revised in a way to get better value for our health dollar, as well as benefit the health of more Australians?

    There are annual increases in changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) copayments and SafetyNet Thresholds (SNT), while the 6CPA included the ability to discount the patient copayment by up to $1.00.

    An alternate approach to the current dollar amount copayment, is to apply a percentage copayment. A cost neutral switch to a fixed percentage copayment would see a General copayment of around 50% and 15% for Concessional patients. There would be no under copayment (non-PBS) prescriptions, so pharmacists would no longer add surcharges to these PBS prescriptions.

    Consideration should also be given to the nature of the PBS SafetyNet (SN), since they discriminate against singles. Is there a place for two levels of SNTs: an individual threshold as well as a family threshold?

    The current approach to PBS savings is that Government takes most of the cost savings and there are no direct prices signals to consumers. They don’t understand that Government pays the difference between the dispensed price and the patient copayment. Direct price signals may encourage more cost effective prescribing.

    • Tim Hewitt
      11/04/2019

      Hi Micheal.. good to see you are still on the case,.. bu forget about a percentage contribution idea…. that spells chaos at the coal face (ie in the pharmacy..) patients would NEVER get it.. yes, they may then go back and put pressure in prescribers to prescribe something çheaper.. and cripes wouldnt the doctors love that!!! The ‘price signal’ that the collective genii in the health dept dreamed up years ago was to clog up labels and confuse people by insisting the ‘full cost” be printed on the label.. for what medical reason? NONE!! just to say ‘be grateful you blood sucking sicko!”.. get rid of that ridiculous bit of meddling!! consumers/patients pay tax.. tax pays for the PBS.. it’s their/our money, not ‘the governments’!! viva la revolution!!

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