Millions of Australians are set to benefit from a major (and controversial) shakeup to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from this September.
The changes (which will be confirmed during next month’s budget) will see the cost of hundreds of yet-to-be-confirmed medicines halved for those battling chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes and will allow those who rely on prescription medication to buy 60 days’ worth of medicine for the price of just one prescription.
“Over the next five years, patients with chronic disease have literally shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars in co-payments that they didn’t need to shell out,” Health Minister Mark Butler said earlier this week.
“We are going to put an end to that.”
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Whilst the news is a sure sigh of relief for those struggling with chronic illnesses and with the cost-of-living crisis, the change does have some downsides.
According to The Pharmacy Guild, the change has the potential to cause significant supply shortages for the 320 medications selected.
They also believe that pharmacies will suffer financially from the “bulk buying” that is sure to ensue given pharmacists currently receive individual dispensing fees from the Commonwealth each time medication is sold over the counter.
Health Minister Mark Butler is spearheading the change.
Consumers Health and Forum of Australia Chief Executive Dr Elizabeth Deveny told ABC that more Australians would now be able to pay for essential medicines that they would have otherwise delayed getting.
"Consumers are telling us that they can't afford their health care," Dr Deveny said.
"They pay the out-of-pocket costs for their visits to GPs and any medicines where they pay a co-payment, and they can't afford to pay this anymore.
"Many of them are really struggling to pay for things like their rent or their mortgage, and then making the decision not to pay for their medicines.
The Dr then went on to say that the change to the PBS would “allow many Australians to afford the health care that they actually need."
After the first hundred medications are listed in September, a second group will be included in March 2024, and a third and final in September 2024.