Hunt: New trial, shorter payment times

Health Minister solidifies support for community pharmacy, announcing new $5 million mental health trial program, reduced PBS payment times and guaranteed AHI rates at APP2019

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has reaffirmed his support for the community pharmacy, announcing several initiatives at APP2019 conference at the Gold Coast on Thursday.

He announced a new $5 million pharmacy mental health trial program that he hopes will roll out nationally in the future.

The trial will initially be administered across three states and territories, with a tentative start date set for 1 July 2019.

“What does that program mean? It means that you will be given support to provide greater adherence to those patients who are managing medications for their mental health challenges,” said Minister Hunt.

“We know in any one year, four million Australians will face those challenges and so this will give you more information and more capacity to help those patients at their time of greatest need.

“My belief is that this trial will be successful and my guarantee is that presuming that is the case, we will then roll it out nationally and make it available to every pharmacy in Australia.”

Greg Hunt addresses delegates at APP2019. Image: AJP

Minister Hunt also announced the government will be moving to reduce times for PBS payment schedules from 9-16 days down to 2-9 days.

These are expected to commence from April 2019.

“Very simply, that means better cash flow and the Commonwealth ensuring that your payments arrive earlier.”

The Minister announced further Commonwealth funding of $200 million through to mid 2023 to guarantee the higher rate of the Administration, Handling and Infrastructure fee (AHI fee).

“You now have security for four years and a $200 million additional investment in the AHI fee which will underpin your revenues going forward.”

Minister Hunt highlighted the “critical role” of pharmacists in increasing herd immunity across the community through vaccinations adding that in going to the COAG meeting for health ministers this week, “one of the matters I will be raising is urging those states that have not provided NIP access for vaccination to pharmacists to do so”.

“In 2017, sadly 1150 people lost their lives. In 2018 where there was the dramatic expansion of herd immunity through your programs and the programs of others, that dropped by 90% to just over to 100 people – so when we say that you are saving lives and protecting lives you really are. The facts are there and the outcomes are recognised, and measured in lives saved and lives protected.”

He will also be bringing up real-time monitoring at the COAG meeting.

“Real-time monitoring is absolutely critical to saving lives. Our national railroad is in place, Victoria is leading the country in terms of that, Queensland is lagging the country unfortunately,” he told AJP at the event.

“We’re going to work with all of the states to get them to do that as quickly as possible. Everything that [the national government] needed to do is done, we just need to get them to adopt and to put the trains on the tracks.”

Minister Hunt promised that under his watch there would be no vending machines replacing pharmacists, or federal licences being granted for pharmacy in supermarkets.

“In my time, no vending machines and no supermarket licences, that’s a commitment now and through the 7CPA, and as long as we are involved in leadership in this space.”

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  1. Bruce ANNABEL

    The minister has offered strong financial incentives for pharmacy owners to support the coalition at the forthcoming election. The mental health trial and shorter PBS payment times are nice but the big win is maintaining the current AHI structure ie: the minister said pharmacy can keep the almost 33c/script risk share granted in the prior financial year. This is a big win because it amounts to just under $20,000 net profit contribution for a pharmacy dispensing 56,000 Rx pa. Call it a pre-election gift.
    But of course all the promises predicated on Minister Hunts government being returned!

  2. Nicholas Logan

    Dispensing clozapine has such low returns off the back of the bureacracy involved that a mental health trial could reward the pharmacies who persist with it.

  3. PharmOwner

    $5 mil for mental health amounts to around $1.25 per patient facing “challenges” according to the figures mentioned by minister Hunt. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

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