Mixed feelings about medication prices

Capsule with dollar signs spilling out

Opinion is divided among Australian consumers about the cost of medications, with around one third saying they’re too expensive

A majority of Australians have given a vote of confidence to the Australian healthcare system with 65.5% rating it a score of 8 or above out of 10, a new report has found.

The first Australian Healthcare Index report seeks to capture the mood and experiences of Australian healthcare patients, based on responses from over 8000 adults.

Among the findings was that 36.6% of people think that prescription medicines are too expensive, which could mean for some people that the cost of prioritising medicine and their healthcare puts financial pressure on their families, according to the report’s authors. 

However, 56% of respondents said they believed that prescription medication was affordable. 

Across the states, the findings varied, but were inline with the national figures as more than one third of respondents said costs were too high, with a range from 31.9% to 42.2%. 

Despite the cost concerns raised, open-ended responses indicated that available concessions helped assist people by making prescription medications more affordable, the authors said.

Produced by the Australian Patients Association and HealthEngine, the report captures learnings from patients on the public and private healthcare ecosystem including primary care, private health insurance (PHI), emergency departments, elective surgery, prescription medicine and more.

Among other key findings from the report were:

  • Nearly 95% embrace the use of technology in healthcare, with the use of and interest in telehealth, health apps, online booking, e-scripts and more. 40.2% said they were interested in using electronic prerscriptions.
  • While 55.1% of respondents had Private Health Insurance, the majority said they would not recommending their PHI and many feel it costs too much
  • People are avoiding the dentist, for reasons including cost and fear, and not prioritising dental care as a part of their overall care.

Stephen Mason, CEO of the Australian Patients Association said he hoped the report would help strengthen patient-centred care in the healthcare system.

“As we advocate for improved patient care and health outcomes, the Australian Healthcare Index is an important pulse check on the patient experience for organisations like ours as well as the greater healthcare community, peak bodies and government at all levels, who are contributing to and leading public and private healthcare in Australia,” said Mason.

“The APA became involved with the Australian Healthcare Index to hear the patient’s voice. Although we are comforted by the knowledge that our healthcare system has coped well during the pandemic, we are concerned about dental care and the cost of medicines.”

“As for the perceived lack of value from PHI, we are working closely with Private Healthcare Australia and its members to address this concern and in particular to prevent excessive out of pocket costs.

“We hope the report’s findings make a positive contribution to shaping national healthcare policy, on behalf of patients across the country.”

Click here to see the report 



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  1. Philip Smith

    36.6% say medicines are unaffordable in relation to what? Latest iPhone? Or 1L of milk?
    The gap between concession is huge, a potential 6-7 times cost. Which seems to imply a 6-7 times higher income than a pension rate.
    But if you identify as Aborignal or Torres Strait Islander (no proof required) at your doctors you can reduce this cost and the doctor is also incentivised?

    • Russell Smith

      Pity the doctors are not quite incentivised enough to “CTG” the actual prescriptions they issue!
      So many need to be embarrassed to endorse the prescriptions by returning the patient, however inconvenient, it seems that as individuals and as a group, they need remuneration withheld and re-education – especially those with a cultural disdain for the indigenous

  2. Cogrady

    Send every single one of those who complain to the USA and collect the same script and pay for it and they will realise how incredibly lucky they are to live in Australia. I will always support our 1st Nations people

  3. Russell Smith

    Even the 95-odd % who “embrace” – whatever that means – the use of technology – again whatever that means – produces a skew in any worthwhile analysis – so what’s worth drawing as a possible conclusion? Some people do not value their personal health, at any price, vs their personal lifestyle choices. Anything changed over our lifetimes? Not in the last 50 years, from personal experience.
    (Not even “prerscriptions”)

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