PBS copay, safety net rise to persist if Coalition returned: Ley

Sussan Ley

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.

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  1. nuggettyone

    Gah this makes me really angry!

    How conveniently Ley forgets to mention that the $1 discount:
    – isn’t paid for by the govt, but by the pharmacies
    – isn’t mandatory
    – is only applicable to co-pay eligible scripts
    – is UP TO $1 (though for purposes of sane reporting, my guess is most are doing $1 or none)
    – is basically negligible if you’re someone who hits the safety net (whopping savings of $2.80 concessional, $0.70 general)
    – makes you hit your safety net later, for the same sum, so 71 scripts instead of 60 for a concessional customer, and you save $2.80, while your pharmacy bleeds $71 (assuming that as a patient, you care about that)

    This $1 she keeps talking about is completely not going to help ‘offset’ the hike in co-pay that they are proposing, per script! ($5 general, $0.80 concessional, vs 2015-2015 at $0.50 and $0.10 respectively.)

    And that’s not even mentioning the new thresholds, which will doubtless not remain at $372 concessional and $1.475.70 general. But let’s say they do…

    *Concessional at $372 threshold, with new co-pay ($7.00)*
    Without $1 discount = (372/7) 53 scripts + 1 more to go over the threshold = save $1.00 total
    With $1 discount = (372/6) 62 scripts = save $0.00. Nothing. It’s exact, so the script that ‘takes you over the threshold’ being free no longer exists.

    I suppose that’s… better? If the discount isn’t taken, patients will hit their safety net faster. And if the discount is taken, it’s back to 62 scripts! Brilliant!

    I’m too grumpy to work out the ‘savings’ or lack thereof for general customers right now. Just consider that general patients save a whopping total of $0.70 when hit their safety nets after having taken the $1 discount each time.

    And the ones who really benefit from the $1 discount are the ones who don’t hit their safety nets (I would be one of those!), and so tend not to need the discount that much anyway.

    Grr. 🙁

    • Ian Bodycote

      If people do not purchase their medicine because of increasing costs and become uncompliant ,ultimately ending up in the already stressed public hospital system, how are the government saving anything ?? : hint : spend more money to keep them out of the hospital and save long term.
      Also I’ve voted Liberal all my life but will no longer be.

      • nuggettyone

        You’re completely right.

        Unfortunately, though, I think the part of the issue is that things like stressed public hospital systems and worse outcomes for many, especially the ones who most need care, are not personal. :/

        To the general public, they’re just faceless statistics, more or less. They’re not REAL.

        The RACGP’s You’ve Been Targeted campaign, on the other hand, is brilliantly personal. “You’ve been targetted by the evil politicians! We GPs have been fighting the good fight, but even we can only do so much. Let us band together! Help us to help you!” :X (Okay, so I paraphrased a bit, lol.)

        It’s great!

        There’s a reason charities don’t show photos of masses of despairing people. As humans, we look at things like that, and generally inertia takes over. The ‘problem is too big for me to possibly make a difference’ syndrome.

        Show one big-eyed, hungry looking kid, though, and… 😉

        What’s more, I’m not sure that the general public understands that banner groups don’t own the pharmacies that bear their branding and fitouts. If someone thinks ‘big corporate’ owns the store, they’re probably going to care far less that the $1 hurts the pharmacy.

        And that’s assuming they even KNOW the $1 hurts the pharmacy. :/

        If I weren’t working in the industry, I’m sure I wouldn’t know these things either! :/ It seems community pharmacy has a bit of a PR problem.

        (I’m not a pharmacist, and I don’t work in a pharmacy. I work for one of the vendors. ^_^ Just thought I should state that, so there’s a bit of context around what I’m writing.)

  2. Sam K

    They need to stop looking at government cuts and surplus ect, and need to start looking at patient needs and the sustainability of the pharmaceutical industry, which are branches of the National Medicines Policy, comprising of timely access, affordable assess to medicines, and the sustainability of the pharmaceutical industry. With remuneration cuts to pharmacies and medcines delisting, the last two are being neglected.

  3. Murray Rowe

    I believe the $1 optional reduction in PBS was a gutless decision by the Govt. I ask why should pharmacy be asked to cover that cost when services are getting dearer, wages ( including State payroll tax ) , rates and land tax are incredible.
    The Govt should have the courage to apply that discount and maintain what it costs to run a service orientated dispensary these days. Just watch the pharmacies go under over the next few years and we employ a lot of people in good well paid jobs including students.
    As a Liberal I’m disappointed to say the least.

    • Ivelise Roic

      Given their repeated 3 word slogans about jobs and growth their actions have shown to be exactly opposite. How is a pharmacy able to absorb the cost of hundreds of dollars a week? It usually means cut backs in employee numbers or their hours- it is definitely not conducive to ‘job creation’. And as many of the shop assistants employed are women I think it also a blow to the hard working women in the workforce trying to earn a living for the family and eventual retirement. I wonder how many pharmacy owners have already had to do this?

  4. PharmOwner

    Two things about Ley’s comments made me giggle:-
    1/ “…our continuous commitment to a sustainable PBS” conveniently forgetting to mention that this is at the expense of the sustainability of pharmacies.
    2/ “…most importantly to the listing of new medicines” conveniently forgetting to mention the flipside of delistings such as Panadol Osteo which impacts a far larger number of patients than the listing of a few new Hep C drugs

  5. Ivelise Roic

    Given the actions of the government has been shown to favour donors to the party, and the $1 discount option really only benefits big pharmacy groups who were previously chastised for providing cheaper PBS rates to attract customers, I’m inclined to think the last minute and opposed move was motivated by one or more of the large groups who this benefits and who do donate to the LNP. There are increasing calls from the electorate to an ICAC into corruption and I think this should also be closely investigated and reversed. I hope the Guild pushes to investigate this

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