Thursday, 8 September 2022
Universal access to health care is something that Australia and Australians have been proud of for many, many decades, but no-one can deny that that important principle is under extreme stress in our country right now—stress which predates the pandemic but was exacerbated by it and which requires both systemic and localised interventions. I'm very proud to be part of a federal Labor government that is willing to roll up its sleeves and take on that challenge, because it is part of our commitment to a fairer, more equal society and to not leave anyone behind.
We know it is harder than it has ever been before to access a bulk-billing local GP, and for most people it's almost impossible to have a regular bulk-billing GP to look after their health needs, even if they have a chronic health need. One of the changes that have already been implemented in the first 110 days or so of this new government is an election commitment that my community of Dunkley fought very hard to get, which is to change the distribution priority area allocations so that our community's general practices can now more easily recruit doctors to work in our outer suburban electorate. It means that locals needing to see a doctor will be able to access health care when they need it. For the clinics, particularly those operating in areas like Carrum Downs, Karingal and Langwarrin, the change in classification will give them more opportunities to recruit and retain doctors.
As a government, we're also strengthening Medicare and the PBS so that more people can afford the medications they need to stay healthy. The burden of worrying about the price of accessing sometimes life-saving or life-extending medication will be significantly reduced, which is so important right now with the cost-of-living pressures that are on everyone but that impact even more on people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
The legislation introduced yesterday, the National Health Amendment (General Co-payment) Bill 2022, will mean that, for the first time in its 75-year history, the maximum cost of general scrips under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will fall. It is truly great news for so many people living in my community, a wonderful area with wonderful people but a community that struggles with rates of chronic disease that are higher than those in other communities across Victoria and, in many cases, across the country. This legislation means that someone taking one medication a month will save $150 every year. A family with two or three medications will save between $300 and $450 a year, not an insignificant amount for many families in my community.
The maximum cost to general patients for PBS medications has doubled since 2000, and there had been no help before this federal Labor government was elected. The ABS advises that the high cost of medicines meant close to one million Australians delayed or didn't fill their medication prescriptions in 2019-20. That's why these changes are important, and it's why we are making them—to put about $200 million back in the pockets of Australians every year and to make sure that people who regularly need to take medications can take them and not then worry about how they're going to put food on the table or buy schoolbooks, school shoes and sporting equipment for their children. We know those are some of the decisions that people often face, particularly women.
I'm very proud to be part of an Albanese government that is making medicines cheaper, making it easier to get bulk-billing GPs and making it easier for people like Stella in my electorate—an excellent young woman who has type 1 diabetes—to be able to afford CGM technology. These are the sorts of things that truly change people's lives, and we have to keep doing more of this and the systemic changes that I know are to come for a better, healthier, fairer society.