The Albanese government has tabled a bill to cut the maximum cost of medical prescriptions by more than A$10 (US$6.82)
The scheme aims to make medicines cheaper by cutting prescriptions covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) by 30 percent, with the maximum general co-payment dropping from $42.50 to $30.
The federal government estimated the new plan would help Australians taking one medication a month save up to $150 every year, or $300-$450 a year for two or three medications a month.
The bill, if passed, would come into effect from Jan. 1, 2023.
National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Prof. Trent Twoney, said on Sep. 7 that “patients continue to tell community pharmacies of the increasing pressures of having to choose between food on the table and medicine for the family.”
Twoney believed the move would “help reduce medicine non-adherence which directly contributes to higher healthcare costs, including preventable hospital admissions and readmission.”
Most Significant Change to Health System in 75 Years
He added that the bill was the “single most significant change to the cost of, and access to, medicines since the PBS was introduced 75 years ago.”
The PBS safety net, under which the prescriptions would be cut, supports Australians who need medicines. According to the Department of Health and Aged Care website, if the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approves a drug for supply in Australia, its sponsor or supplier can apply for it to be subsidised under the PBS. If subsidised, the patient pays a lower price for the medicine, and the government pays the rest.
Minister for Health and Aged care Mark Butler said the change would put close to A$200 million back in the pockets of Australians each year.
“The ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) advises that the high costs of medications meant close to 1 million Australians delayed or didn’t fill their medications in 2019-20. We must do better than this, and we will.”
Opposition Welcomes the Implementation of a Coalition Policy
While the Opposition welcomed the move but said the Albanese government “is implementing a Coalition policy that was announced during the election campaign which they matched.”
“I welcome the fact that they are implementing Coalition policy. What we’ve yet to see from them is any sort of comprehensive plan about their own approach to tackling the cost of living,” Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham said.
Meanwhile, the President of Chronic Pain Australia, Fiona Hodson, believed the reduction in the co-payment would be welcome news to the one in five Australians living with chronic pain.