House debates

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Questions without Notice

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

2:53 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. How is the Albanese Labor government's cheaper medicines policy continuing to improve the lives of Australians?

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Newcastle her question because I know just how hard she campaigned last year on her promise to the people of Newcastle to strengthen Medicare and deliver cheaper medicines. She knows that, in just the first two months of this year, her constituents have saved a quarter of a million dollars on 25,000 cheaper scripts because, on 1 January, the Albanese government delivered on our promise to implement the biggest cut to the price of medicines in the 75-year history of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, saving Australians in just two months $36 million already over 3.2 million cheaper scripts.

Even before that, last July, we reduced—we slashed—the maximum amount that pensioners and concession card holders would pay for their medicine needs by 25 per cent, ensuring that those people across a given year would pay no more than $5.05 per week for all of their medicine needs, no matter how many scripts they filled. In September we cut the price of 2,000 brands of medicines, delivering $130 million back into the pockets of hardworking Australians, and in November the Minister for Social Services delivered on our promise to give more self-funded retirees access to a seniors health card to give them cheaper medicines and access to bulk-billed GP visits. Already more than 10,000 self-funded retirees have that card in their hands who didn't have it before last November.

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of visiting Pharmacy@Knox in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I met with pharmacists there, Dat and Mel, who run this terrific 24-hour pharmacy. Incidentally, can I say, they told me that their books were overflowing with their constituents coming in to get that additional dose of COVID vaccine. Across the parliament we know that community pharmacies are playing an increasingly central role in our vaccine program, including the new COVID booster dose.

On cheaper medicines, Mel told me as well that she had countless patients coming up to the counter shocked, genuinely shocked, that they're saving money on cheaper medicines. They asked her whether perhaps a mistake had been made. They asked, 'Really? Is that all I have to pay?' Australians right around the country are benefiting from the Albanese government's policy on cheaper medicines.

Pharmacists know that this isn't just good for their hip pocket—as good as it is for their hip pocket—it's also good for their health, because hundreds of thousands of Australians, up until now, have been going without scripts that their doctors have said are important for their medicines. Medicines cheaper are not only good for the cost of living, they're making Australians live healthier lives.