National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill to Be Debated in the Senate

By Petrina Smith
Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

With the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014 being debated in the Senate this week, the The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is arguing Australians already pay too much for their medicines.
ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said today: “Earlier this year the COAG Reform Council reported that 8.5 per cent of people in 2012-13 delayed, or did not have prescriptions filled due to cost. The report identified that this is up to 12.14 per cent in disadvantaged areas and a shocking 36.4 percent for Indigenous Australians.
“This is on top of all the other health costs the Government asks us to pay, which add up to $1,075 per person per year, in addition to our taxes, in costs for health care. This is one of the highest out of pocket costs for health care in the world.
“Health professionals and experts have been speaking out about this situation for years and it has finally been recognised by the recent Senate Inquiry into Out of Pocket Expenses in Australian Healthcare. “The Inquiry concluded that out of pocket health costs are so unacceptably high that they create an environment where individuals already defer treatment, which could be going to see the doctor or getting their prescriptions filled. To avoid making this much worse, the Inquiry has recommended against any further additional co-payments.
“But the Abbott Government appears to have paid no attention to the findings of the Inquiry. Instead of learning from and listening to all the expert advice provided to the Inquiry, Government Senators have issued a dissenting report.
“The most absurd thing about this and the Pharmaceutical Amendments Bill is that the Government is sitting on billions of dollars of savings if they just had the political capacity to negotiate better pricing for prescription medicines. Instead, they’re content to say to Australians you all have to pay more, while we continue to waste $3.5 million a day in medicines.
“There is just no sound reason why Australians should be paying so much more than the rest of the world for our medicines and even less justification for the Government to ask us to pay more.
The ANMF says that rather the introduction of more co-payments, the Government should accept the Senate Committee’s recommendation to undertake a comprehensive review the of PBS price structures to identify greater efficiencies.
“It’s also important to ensure that prescribing practices are evidence-based and cost-effective, given the estimated enormous wastage we see in the use of medicines Australia-wide every day.”

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