There’s no question, the cost-of-living pressures are making it tough for Australians right around the country.
It’s having a real impact. The ABS tells us every year, nearly a million Australians delay buying medicine that their doctor has said is necessary for their health, because they can’t afford it.
In a country as wealthy as ours, Australians shouldn’t have to make a choice between buying medicine, paying their rent, or buying food.
That’s why making medicines cheaper was a key election commitment of the Albanese Government.
And we’re delivering on that promise.
In January, we reduced the maximum co-payment for PBS medicines to $30, in the largest cut to medicine co-payments in the 75-year history of the PBS. Already, Australians have saved $118 million on 11 million cheaper prescriptions.
On 1 September, millions more Australians will get much needed cost of living relief, with the introduction of 60-day prescriptions for hundreds of common medicines for ongoing health conditions.
60-day prescriptions mean twice the medication for the cost of a single prescription.
It will help alleviate the cost-of-living pressures that many Australians are facing.
It will reduce pressure on our doctors, our emergency departments, and the wider health system.
Importantly, it will mean fewer Australians have to make the choice between buying food, paying rent, or buying medicine.
We know just how important the local pharmacy is in rural and regional Australia.
They’re a critical part of the fabric of a community and are often the first place we turn for health advice.
That’s why the Government is supporting rural and regional pharmacies, as we ensure that every single dollar that the Government saves with 60-day prescriptions is reinvested straight back into community pharmacy.
Around a thousand pharmacies in regional, rural and remote Australia will benefit from new payments and higher allowances to help them transition over the next four years.
These investments will provide more than $400,000 to pharmacies from our largest rural towns to our most remote communities.
It will help pharmacies provide more services to more Australians, in more ways than they do now.
The Government isn’t stopping there in our reinvestment in local pharmacies.
We’re introducing changes so that pharmacies will soon be paid the same fee a doctor gets to deliver a free vaccine, aged care facilities will bring pharmacists on-site for medication reviews, and tens of thousands of Australians will soon buy their opioid dependency medicine from their local pharmacy.
Later this year, I’ll launch a national review to find other ways for pharmacists and other health workers to work to the full extent of their skills and training.
Australian pharmacies are strong and resilient. These changes will ensure they continue to be, as millions of Australians get cheaper medicines and some much-needed cost-of-living relief.
This opinion piece was published in The Murray Pioneer on Wednesday, 9 August 2023.