Australians can’t swallow Mr Abbott’s bitter pill

Australians pay too much for their medicines and, depending on the drug, up to an astonishing 40 times more than New Zealanders. And yet this week the Abbott Government will be asking the Senate to approve the Government’s plan to make Australians pay even more when the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014 is debated.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is warning that any further rises in the cost of pharmaceuticals will see more and more Australians struggling to fill their scripts.

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. Rather than hurting people through 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.”

Ms Thomas said the ANMF stands ready to work with the Government and other health stakeholders to find solutions to the high out of pocket costs for healthcare and pharmaceuticals rather than resorting to “cynical co-payments, which will only cause further pain for Australian health consumers” and is urging Senators to reject this Bill for the health of all Australians.

The ANMF, with over 233,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.  

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