The increased PBS copayment and Safety Net amounts remain Coalition policy and will be revisited should the Turnbull Government be returned, Health Minister Sussan Ley says.
The Prime Minister yesterday confirmed that the Government plans to persist with the changes.
Minister Ley, speaking to the ABC’s Fran Kelly this morning on RN Breakfast, said that she rejects Labor leader Bill Shorten’s assertions that this election will be focused on health.
“The measure is on the table and the reason why is that we are taking a responsible path back to a surplus,” the Minister told Kelly, after being asked about the copayment and Safety Net increases, which have remained in limbo since the 2014 Budget.
“I had negotiations with my colleagues when the measure was in the Senate across the Independents, around where we might position additional payments and Safety Nets, that’s small, modest additional payments.
“And we’ll look at it again after the election.”
When asked whether she supported the measure, Minister Ley said she was supportive of a sustainable PBS and “I think it was a very sensible measure in that direction, but obviously when we have a new Senate we will talk to them about how they might pass this measure.”
Health is now a key focus for Labor in its election campaign. Over the weekend Labor made a commitment that it would not proceed with the above-CPI increases in the PBS co-payments and Safety Net thresholds that were announced in the 2014 Federal Budget, which was welcomed by pharmacy organisations.
Minister Ley says that patients will not necessarily pay less for their medicines under a Labor government, however.
“When you look at the actions we’ve taken with the copayment, or the reduction in the PBS by $1 when you get a prescription, by the fact that generic medicines are dropping, some up to 20% in price, and our continuous commitment to a sustainable PBS, but most importantly to the listing of new medicines means that we have the most affordable but the most opportunity to access medicines PBS than there has ever been before,” she told Kelly.
“There’s a reason why consumers are saving up to $20 a script on common medicines, and that includes heart conditions, blood pressure et cetera, our $1 discount that I mentioned and the fact that you can get drugs on the PBS that you may not get at all under Labor.”
The Pharmacy Guild has consistently opposed the $1 copayment discount on scripts since it was first introduced.
Minister Ley told Kelly that this election is not a referendum on health, but on the economy, particularly jobs.