It’s that time again

Scott Morrison addresses the 2018 Guild Parliamentary Dinner.
Scott Morrison addresses the 2018 Guild Parliamentary Dinner.

The Prime Minister has announced this year’s election date, but what does the 2019 ballot mean for pharmacy?

Australia is going to the polls on Saturday 18 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today (11/4).

This year’s federal election promises to be a combative, divisive and potentially close affair.

But what will the potential impacts and outcomes be for health care, and for pharmacy in particular?

The most obvious impact will be that whoever wins the election will be responsible for negotiating the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, so the result is very significant for the community pharmacy sector.

Let’s review what the parties and their leaders have revealed to date (and pending, of course, the release of official election platforms):

The coalition – Health Minister Greg Hunt announced several initiatives and confirmed additional funding for other programs at the APP2019 conference at the Gold Coast in early March.

  • The Minister announced a new $5 million pharmacy trial program focusing on medication adherence for people with mental health issues. The trial will initially be administered across three states and territories, with a tentative start date set for 1 July 2019.
  • Minister Hunt 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 (and this was reconfirmed in the recent Federal Budget).
  • Guaranteeing the current Administration, Handling and Infrastructure (AHI) fee for the dispensing of PBS medicines through a new $200 million investment which will provide certainty until mid-2023.
  • A commitment to expedited negotiation of the next Community Pharmacy Agreement by the end of 2019 six months ahead of the expiry of the current Agreement in June 2020.
  • Working through COAG to harmonise access to vaccinations through community pharmacy in all States and Territories.
  • Reaffirming the Federal Government commitment to the community pharmacy model including through ongoing support for pharmacy location rules and community pharmacy ownership rules.
  • Continuation of the $1 PBS co-payment discount
  • A commitment that no vending machines would replace pharmacists, or no federal licences would be granted for pharmacy in supermarkets.

Click here to see Mr Hunt speaking about some of these programs

The ALP – Also speaking at APP2019, Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King said a Labor government would honour the 6CPA, and lead “early and inclusive” negotiations towards the next agreement.

Other announcements by Ms King were:

  • Extra funding for the AHI fee would be supported “in principle” by Labor, and honoured if it wins government, though the party would need to look at the details in the Budget.
  • Working with pharmacists and the medicines sector to improve access to medicines on the PBS and the National Immunisation Program, “reducing the unnecessary delays and withdrawals we’ve seen under this Government”.
  • Review the $1 optional PBS co-payment discount, which she said had “not improved the affordability of medicines for most Australians”.
  • Examination of the role of pharmacists in primary health care reform, including pharmacists working “to their full scope of practice, without fragmenting care or duplicating services.”
  • Supporting the current system of community pharmacy – including Location Rules.
  • Asking the COAG Health Council to consider whether it is possible and desirable to harmonise state laws and programs on the supply of medicines and vaccines, opioid dependence treatment and continuity of supply after natural disasters.

So we wait to see the official election platforms from the major parties, as well as from smaller groups such as The Greens, One Nation and the Nick Xenophon team.

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