PBS changes will save $3 billion… But how will it affect you? 231



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Health Minister Susan Ley has announced a few changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that will mean big savings – $3 billion in fact. And after reviewing the PBS, it’s clear that these changes are well needed. The question is, how will they affect you?

Currently, the PBS lists hundreds of medications and provides them at a cheaper rate for the Australian population and even cheaper again for seniors. The amount an average Australian contributes to their medication as a co-payment for the PBS is $37.70, however for pensioners or concession card holders it’s just $6.10. These figures are adjusted annually on 1 January in line with the Consumer Price Index.

It’s a very beneficial program for seniors and as you can imagine, costs the government quite a bit. However, the system has also got some interesting quirks.

Firstly, this sees some pensioners paying $6.10 for products they could buy over the counter – even at Woolworth’s – for just a couple of dollars. One example is paracetamol, which is available at any service station, supermarket or corner store.

Why would they pay so much for something you can get cheaper?

It comes down to the safety net – an amount that if exceeded, makes all medication purchases free from that point onwards. For the average Australian it’s $1,453.90 and for pensioners it’s $366.00 or 60 scripts. So for people who take high volumes of medication, it’s a beneficial system and some have managed to rort it by stockpiling basic medication on scripts to reach the safety net and enjoy free medication.

To manage this, one of the proposed changes is to take all over-the-counter medication off the PBS, making room for more lifesaving medications including cancer drugs. It makes sense, given that over the counter medications aren’t often treating something life threatening and giving the discount to those facing serious problems like cancer is a morally sound decision. Ms Ley has said that this measure will benefit the seriously sick.

This means that the calibre of medications on the PBS will be higher than it currently is, and prescriptions for these medications will be more difficult to get from doctors as it’s not a standard dose of paracetamol that can easily be written for anyone for anything. This will assist in stopping those manipulating the system and stockpiling basic medication.

The second measure has both a good and bad edge for consumers. They’d like to reduce the PBS consumer co-payment by around $1, making the co-payment anywhere around $5.10 per medication. However, there’s no confirmation about whether pharmacists will recoup the cost themselves by charging slightly more for medications or if they’ll do as the government hopes and use it as a marketing tool to attract customers.

The downside to this is that it will take consumers longer to reach the PBS safety net – something that could be seen as a bad thing for some, but a necessary measure to reduce those rorting the system.

So ultimately, the benefits are designed to make things easier and cheaper for pensioners doing it tough, but more difficult for those rorting the system and puts an honesty call on pharmacists. And, don’t forget about the budget savings – $3 billion back in the pocket could go a long way in helping Australian pensioners in many other ways.

Tell us, do you support the PBS changes? How will they affect you? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Long overdue….I have a pensioner friend who has rorted this system for years…the medications get thrown out…into our sewerage which I believe is harmful….same story get something for nothing….the queue gets longer

    2 REPLY
    • excuse me, but I pay for my scripts and I am on a pension..I don’t know anyone who gets their medication prescribed by the doctor for free

    • Libbi Elliot they are not prescribed for free, rather than when you have hit your 60 scripts…they are then free…hence medications, calcium tablets, pain killers hoarded and then given to other people or thrown away. I am not meaning to upset you but this I know happens for a fact. I am lucky I use no medication and have not used my card as yet for anything.

  2. I can’t imagine why people would want to stockpile, for a start medication has a use by date and secondly they would have to pay for this unused medication they get..I only get what I need and use the script before I fill it

    19 REPLY
    • I have mine repeated about a week before it runs out, just in case there’s a hitch and I can’t get to the shops for whatever reason, but wouldn’t stockpile. What if the Dr alters your medication? What are you to do with it then?

    • I worked in a pharmacy and unfortunately some folk did stockpile meds and so they made it they could only get a script filled on pbs as needed.
      So I don’t see how people can stockpile meds.

      1 REPLY
      • You are exactly correct Leigh. I can only buy medication I need. Stockpiling is impossible. When I go on holidays any extra medicines I need to take away do not go on the card towards the safety net. I am a pensioner and appreciate getting my medicines at an affordable price. why rort the system.

    • I know a lot of elderly people who stockpile. They do this because they are frightened the price will increase or they won’t have enough money to pay for their next script refil.
      My chemist keeps our scripts and we get an SMS when they are due to be refilled.

    • Leanna
      You can’t buy panadol oesto over the counter. It actually is a higher dose paracetamol than over the counter ones. But the fear is that they will make this over the counter and it will cost as much as $20 to buy. This is because it comes in packets of 160 tablets. The current $3 over the counter ones only come in packets of 24.

    • I live in a little country town and around 20% of our residents are over 70. The country folk just don’t trust the big city folk.. LOL

    • My mother stockpiled medication but it was not PBS. Someone would tell her that something was good so she would try it, but it might only be two or three days later when she thought that she should be better someone would tell her something else and so it went. When my husband cleaned out her cupboards when she had to go in a nursing Home we nearly had a fit we could not believe the amount of medications.PBS medications are all put on a computer and you cannot have them filled before three weeks have elapsed, and most tablets have either 28 or 30 tablets unless the Doctor has ordered that you take more than one a day then you get enough to last you 30 days.
      So I don’t know how anyone can stockpile.

    • Of course you buy Panadol Osteo over the counter, but only from the pharmacy as it is a pharmacy only medication, meaning it is not available from Woolies etc. Chemist warehouse currently sell it for $5.99 for a box of 96 tablets. It is not an S3 product meaning you have to speak to the pharmacist to purchase it.

    • Cheryl. The panadol oesto that you buy prescribed is in must larger packs. That means one would be paying twice as much to have to buy it over the counter. For those of us who are taking it three times a day it could mean a far higher cost each month. Plus, I actually askedmy chemist about purchasing it over the counter and he said that it is prescription only medication as it is a lot stronger paracetamol then what is usually purchased over the counter.

    • Yes you can buy Panadol Osteo over the counter always have been able too,it’s cheaper over the counter,my doctor told me to buy it over the counter because it’s cheaper,have been buying it for years,taking 6 daily…

    • Look at the panadol osteo pack. It has 600mg paracetamol. Panadol etc has 500mg. Thats the only difference. Discount chemists have panamax for $1.89 per 100 tablets.

    • To buy Panadol Osteo over the counter at pharmacy costs more for one box of 96 tablets. As a pensioner with each prescription you get 2 boxes per script for $7:75 and 5 repeats. Some pharmacies will be a little cheaper. Panadol Osteo has 665mg of Paracetamol per tablet. Normal Panadol is 500 mg.

    • No panadol oesto is not cheaper over the counter in fact it is much dearer but you can buy Panamax which is a other form of panadol cheaper and most doctors do tell their patients that and as for people who stock pile that would be very few because you are limited on how close to your last purchase was and you will have to wait your time this I know because some medicine they know how many a day you take and how many tablets are in a box and how long that box should last so on most medicine it would be pretty hard to stock pile

  3. I never even knew you could get paracetamol on a script I’ve always just bought it over the counter

    7 REPLY
    • Me too….and Isnt Panadol Osteo the same as plain Panadol except a larger dose per tab…

      1 REPLY
      • Panadol Osteo comes in scripts of 2 boxes per script which covers a month of use, or 32 days to be exact. This then makes it less costly than buying over the counter. The co-payment for this medication currently is $7.75, so does not count on your safety net I believe.

    • Panadol Osteo is certainly a larger dose, Di Bevan, and it is also slow release, so you have the pain relief throughout the six or eight hours before you have the next dose, instead of as an initial “hit” that wears off more quickly. That’s what makes it a better choice for osteoarthritis.

  4. I think some of this is untrue Pensioners get a script for Panadol with 300 tablets for $6.10 – 100 Panadol at Chemist Warehouse (over the counter) is 10.36 on special Just saying!!!

  5. I currently have a script for Panadol Osteo which I take very sparingly so I don’t have a problem with them dropping it. I’ve never reached the safety net even with 3 different medications a month – but that’s good – it means I’m still reasonably healthy!

    2 REPLY
  6. So why not just tell doctors not to write scripts for medications that can be bought over the counter. And tell pharmacists not to accept scripts for any medications that can be bought over the counter.

    12 REPLY
    • maybe because doctors know if people are in pain and prescribe accordingly, I would prefer to take none of it but am not going to suffer for the fun of it, if I can get some relief

    • I agree nobody should suffer if there is relief available. But I don’t believe this is being done for the good of anyone but the government. I didn’t realise panadol osteo was available on script.

    • Who is “the government” Margaret? I thought we, the taxpayer, were the government so I hope these changes will benefit us.

    • I won’t take any over-the-counter medication without seeking my Doctor’s approval. That is probably why she wrote me a script for Panadol Osteo. I have to be sure that whatever I take doesn’t have an adverse effect with current medication. As I said earlier, I don’t have a problem though with it being dropped from the PBS.

    • Doctor can write the name of medicine available over counter on piece of paper,like do it with any medicine not on PBS,no need to have prescription,simple.

    • I’m a pensioner and need a lot of medications. I simply cannot see this affecting me. I always reach the safety net by about July or August, and am enormously grateful for it. I’m all in favour of stopping any rorting.

    • We the taxpayer are certainly not the government Marie. You ask who are the Government. Currently it’s the LNP and for the last two years they have consistently shown contempt for pensioners. Why this wouldn’t finish up another attack on them I don’t know. History has shown this current government has them firmly in their sites.

    • Margaret,Marie is correct and once again lefties are going to veto this rort when it can pull back $3 billion dollars per year. Why will anyone suffer as you put it. It costs taxpayers $50-00 for each script when you can buy it over the counter For $1-75. Maybe you had better do your homework before you sprout off !!!!

    • Also Margaret, your original statement doesn’t make sense. Doctors not writing scripts for these medications is the whole idea so that taxpayers are not paying.

    • Margaret obviously missed a lot of the Starts at Sixty story, she hasn’t seen the part that says many medications are cheaper over-the-counter than on script.

  7. Good idea. We all should pay our way. Won’t affect me at this stage Not on too much medication.

  8. My husband has three chronic illnesses and at 62 doesn’t qualify for any benefits. We have never reached the safety net. I buy 100 pack of paracetamol for $2. It’s time people stopped abusing the system.

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