Government should scrap co-pay increases and move to electronic recording, CHF says

The Federal Government should reform the PBS safety net so consumers with high usage of PBS medicines have “smoothed out annual co-payments”, the Consumers Health Forum believes.

In its 2017-18 Budget Submission, released last week, the CHF calls for reforms to PBS administration and payments to better aid consumers, with these proposals winning support from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

The CHF endorsed pharmacy as a “key element in the strong and sustainable primary healthcare system that Australia needs”, while calling for its integration into ongoing health structural reforms.

“CHF supports the strengthening of this crucial sector through: the removal of the PBS co-payment increase, the development of a new health payment system and through the reform of the PBS safety net”, the submission states.

“We also support the integration of primary care services delivered by pharmacists and in the community pharmacy setting being integrated with other reforms such as local services commissioned by Primary Health Networks and Health Care Homes”.

Among the reforms its suggests is withdrawing the one-off increase in the PBS co-payments and increases in the safety net thresholds proposed in the 2014 Federal Budget.

CHF also says the PBS safety net needs reform so consumers with high-usage of PBS medicines have “smoothed out annual co-payments.”

This will “reduce uncertainty and the ill health of this vulnerable population by ensuring continued medication,” the group says, adding that this issue is raised consistently by consumers, particularly those on low and fixed incomes who sometimes struggle to afford even the concessional co-payment.

CHF suggest the payment system includes the capacity to administer the PBS safety net electronically.

“The current system of paper records being held by one pharmacy places an unnecessary level of stress and burden on consumers,” it says.

“This particular issue has been raised as a concern by consumers over a number of years. Our recommendation is in keeping with the Government’s own principles for digital services as set out by the Digital Transformation Office”.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia supports this move, saying “an electronically administered PBS model aligns with the broader movement to electronic record keeping and electronic business processes, and the Guild has been at the forefront developing procedures and processes that has seen community pharmacy become a leader in this area”.

The Guild also supported the call to scrap the co-pay, backing “any move which underpins the principle of affordable medicines for Australians, and scrapping the copayment increase is one such move because cost can be a barrier to access”.