Hunt explains Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill

Canberra parliament house

The Health Minister has outlined the proposed fee for new or relocated pharmacy applications, and changes around bankruptcy

This week Greg Hunt discussed the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2019 in the House of Representatives, first highlighting the Morrison Government’s commitment to listing new medicines, and changes to the Safety Net.

“I am privileged to have recently announced that the Morrison government will invest a further $308 million to reduce the costs of life-changing prescription medicines for over 1.4 million Australians who require multiple medicines each month,” the Minister said.

“From 1 January 2020 the safety net threshold to receive free or cheaper medicines through the PBS will be lowered by 12 scripts for concession card holders and the equivalent of two scripts for non-concession-card-holders.

“This change will mean that people will take less time to reach their safety net threshold, saving them up to $80 per year and providing them with earlier access to free medicines, or medicines at a reduced co-payment.

“This will be a particular benefit to families who require multiple medicines per month, and pensioners and individuals with multiple chronic conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma and diabetes.”

He said the proposed Bill will support the PBS in two ways: the first being the provision for the application fee, to be charged when pharmacists make an application to supply PBS medicines at pharmacy premises.

There is currently no fee charged for doing so.

“The fee will apply to all applications to establish a new pharmacy or relocate an existing pharmacy, or where the pharmacy changes ownership,” Mr Hunt said.

“Payment of the fee will be required at the time the pharmacists submit their application. It is in line with the agreement struck with the Pharmacy Guild and represents the broad consensus amongst pharmacists within Australia.

“The amount of the fee will be determined by the Minister for Health in a legislative instrument and will be calculated based on the regulatory activity involved in processing these types of applications.”

The Department of Health will review the fee each year and adjust it accordingly.

The second provision will allow PBS medicines to continue to be provided to patients following the bankruptcy of an approved pharmacist.

Mr Hunt said that this would ensure the community can continue to receive, with security, their medicines.

The measure will be particularly important in rural and remote areas, he said, where it may be difficult to access an alternative pharmacy.

“The approximate number of pharmacies affected by bankruptcy or external administration is 20 each year,” the Minister said.

“The bill therefore provides the Secretary of the Department of Health the power to grant permission to an appointed administrator to manage the supply of PBS medicines at pharmacy premises, thereby guaranteeing continuity and security for patients.

“The new provisions will assist this continuity of supply of PBS medicines at an effective pharmacy until such time as the pharmacy can be sold or transferred to another pharmacist.”

Mr Hunt thanked stakeholders including the Guild, PSA and Australian Friendly Societies Pharmacy Association for their input during consultation on the Bill.

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