Legislative changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) have led to massive in-pocket savings, which will no doubt be a boon for retired Australians who must manage high living costs on a fixed income.
Amidst growing calls to cut the cost of medicines, in January, the cost of a prescription on the PBS was cut by $12.50 from $42.50 to $30, the largest co-payment cut in the scheme’s 75-year history.
A future forward move allowing 60-day prescriptions has also meant that many eligible patients who have ongoing health conditions could receive twice the medication for the cost of a single prescription.
According to a statement released by the Albanese Government, the changes have delivered a saving of $20 million per month on approximately 1.8 million cheaper prescriptions.
To qualify for the 60-day prescriptions patients must:
In even more good news, it has also become easier for pensioners to see a GP following the government’s $3.5 billion investment into bulk billing.
The sizeable injection has seen GPs in major cities receiving 34 per cent more in Medicare payments for standard 20-minute consults with eligible patients while regional and rural GPs will receive 50 per cent more for that same visit.
One general practice operator saw a 5 percentage point increase in bulk billing across 20 of their general practices that previously had the lowest rate of bulk billing.
In 20 of their clinics, 71 per cent of patients were bulk billed after the higher Medicare payments were introduced in November, up from 67 per cent in September.
Some clinics saw even greater increases, with a Sydney-based centre going from bulk billing half its patients in September, to bulk billing nearly two-thirds of patients in November.
Seven million patients which include pensioners, concession cardholders, and families with children under 16 are eligible for the higher Medicare payments. Altogether, they make up three out of five visits to the GP.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler said, “We went to the election promising Australians we would make it cheaper to see a doctor and that’s what we have delivered”.
“The net economic benefit of bulk billing a healthcare card holder now the incentive has been tripled is very clear in almost all areas, and especially so in regional areas with loadings. The social good for vulnerable patient cohorts is equally attractive to most GPs,” he said.
These changes have come just in the nick of time following an SOS from doctors across Australia last year saying that the bulk billing system was on the verge of collapsing with the country’s most vulnerable being left in the lurch.