The Coalition has promised to reduce the PBS safety net threshold and Labor says it will now match it – but the Guild says more can be done
A re-elected Coalition government will invest $308 million towards lowering the PBS safety net threshold from 1 January 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced in a release on Thursday.
Under the policy, the PBS safety net threshold will be lowered by 12 scripts for pensioners and concession card holders – from 60 prescriptions to 48 – and the equivalent of two scripts for non-concession card holders.
Mr Morrison says the changes will cut the cost of medicines for over 1.4 million Australians, with pensioners and families qualifying much sooner for free or further discounted PBS medicines.
“This change will save patients up to $80 per year but more importantly it means over one million Australians will be able to access free medicine even quicker,” he said.
“Families who require multiple medicines per month and pensioners with multiple chronic conditions will get the most benefit.”
Soon after the announcement, Labor also sent out a release saying they will adopt the same PBS changes if elected.
Health Minister Catherine King said a Shorten Labor government will “deliver faster access to cheaper medicines by adopting changes to the PBS.
“When it comes to health, the Liberals say one thing before an election and another afterwards. Labor will however adopt this $308 million proposal.
“Labor invented Medicare and the PBS and we will also protect and strengthen them,” she said.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomed the announcement that patients will have earlier access to the PBS safety net regardless of which side wins the Federal election.
“This is a positive step, especially for chronically ill patients, many of whom struggle to fill prescriptions because of cost,” they said, acknowledging bi-partisan support for the measure.
However they added: “There is more that can be done to restore universality to the PBS through ensuring patients across Australia access subsidised medicines on the same terms.
“We also stress the importance of ensuring that the vital final component of the PBS supply chain – community pharmacies – are kept viable so that patients continue to have the world’s best access to the medicines they need.”