Australians are on track to save a quarter of a billion dollars on their medicines in 2023, thanks to the Albanese Government’s changes to make medicines cheaper.
The maximum cost of a prescription on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) was lowered to $30 in January, from $42.50, in the largest cut to the co-payment in the 75-year history of the PBS.
This has delivered around $20 million each month back into the hip pocket of Australians, on around 1.8 million cheaper prescriptions.
After the Coalition voted against 60-day prescriptions, but ultimately failed to block it, more than 600,000 scripts have been issued since 60-day scripts became available, saving patients an estimated $5 million.
By years end, Australians will have saved more than $250 million on the price of their medicines, with even greater savings to follow in 2024.
It is easier to see a doctor for free, with more bulk billing services available since the Albanese Government tripled the incentive that doctors get to bulk bill pensioners, concession cardholders and children under 16.
Doctors in GP clinics in every state and territory have increased the availability of bulk billing since the $3.5 billion investment came into effect on 1 November.
One general practice operator, ForHealth, has seen a 5 percentage point increase in bulk billing across 20 of the general practices in its network 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 ForHealth clinics saw even greater increases, with Caringbah Medical & Dental Centre in Sydney going from bulk billing half its patients in September, to bulk billing nearly two-thirds of patients in November.
More than 7 million pensioners and concession cardholders, as well as 5 million families with children under 16 are eligible for the higher Medicare payments.
Together, these patients account for 3 out of 5 visits to the GP.
Thanks to the Albanese Government a GP in the major cities will now receive 34 per cent more in Medicare payments to bulk bill a standard 20-minute consultation with an eligible patient.
A GP in regional and rural Australia will receive around 50 per cent more for that same visit.
Savings by state thanks to lowering the PBS co-payment – January to October 2023
ACT: $5.0 million saved on 450,000 cheaper scripts
NSW: Nearly $63 million saved on 5.6 million cheaper scripts
NT: $1.3 million saved on 112,000 cheaper scripts
QLD: $39 million saved on 3.5 million cheaper scripts
SA: $13 million saved on 1.1 million cheaper scripts
TAS: $4.2 million saved on 370,000 cheaper scripts
VIC: $52 million saved on 4.7 million cheaper scripts
WA: $23 million saved on 2.1 million cheaper scripts
Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:
“We went to the election promising Australians we would make it cheaper to see a doctor and that’s what we have delivered.
“The tripling of the bulk billing incentive benefits patients that account for 3 out of 5 visits to the GP.
“Doctors have been telling me and now the data shows the reality, even in these early days, only three weeks into the new incentives, clinics everywhere are making the shift back to bulk billing.”
Quotes attributable to ForHealth CEO, Andrew Cohen:
"Our modelling shows families of children under 16 and patients with concession cards often cut back on visiting the GP when gap fees are introduced.
"When these patients make fewer visits to the GP, particularly now the bulk billing incentive has been tripled, the lower volume of visits results in a fall in GP billings, in most cases. This negates any benefit that a GP might have hoped for by introducing a large gap fee for eligible patients.
“The tripling in the bulk billing incentive is going to make a big difference. Basically, it means more bulk billing doctors, more bulk billed patients, and we hope lower ED presentations at the hospital.
“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.”