Cheaper medicines on the way


The federal government has moved to cut the cost of prescriptions in an effort to tackle rising cost-of-living pressures.

Health minister Mark Butler today introduced legislation to cut the maximum co-payment for medicine on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from $42.50 to $30.

The cuts are expected to save Australians more than $190 million a year in out-of-pocket costs. According to government figures, the measure will cost $765.3 million in the forward estimates.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the move was the fulfilment of an election promise. “Cost-of-living pressures are real,” he said.

“These changes to the PBS are necessary because we need to make sure Australians can afford the medications they need.”

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However, the changes won’t come into effect until 1 January next year.

Mr Butler said the legislation was recognition that out-of-pocket healthcare costs were unreasonable.

“Healthcare costs are too high in Australia and among the highest in the OECD countries,” Mr Butler said.

“Cutting the cost of medications will help millions of Australians. Our changes to the PBS mean that the trip to the chemist won’t be an expensive one.

“The high costs of medications meant close to one million Australians delayed or didn’t fill their medications in 2019-20,” Mr Butler said.

“We must do better than this, and we will.”

The move was welcomed by pharmacists. Pharmacy Guild of Australia president Professor Trent Twomey said it was the single most significant change to the cost of medicines since the PBS was introduced 75 years ago.

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Prof. Twomey said making medicines more affordable would help people to stick to their dosage. 

“As primary healthcare workers, community pharmacists have increasingly been hearing patients say they simply cannot afford medicines and are often faced with deciding who in the family will go without in order to put food on the table or pay their bills,” he said.

“Making medicines cheaper will help reduce medicine non-adherence, which directly contributes to higher healthcare costs, including preventable hospital admissions and readmission.” 

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The guild had sought a reduction of $20 per prescription.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the change will apply to about 17 million full-priced general scripts including stroke, asthma and diabetes medication.

Concession card holders, who pay a maximum of $6.80 for prescription medicines on the PBS, will still pay the same.

The PBS safety net thresholds will also remain at the same level. They are currently $244.80 for concession card holders and $1457.10 for general patients.

Patients will also still need to apply for a safety net card for cheaper medicines once they pass the threshold.

Will cutting the price of medicines help your budget? What other changes would you like to see for Australian healthcare? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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