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Health News: Two Healthcare Changes for 2023

January 18, 2023 0 Comments

The new year has brought some welcome Health news around telehealth for Covid testing and a major change to the PBS.

Since the early days of the pandemic, of the many moving parts of the federal health response, improved access to telehealth remains one of the standout successes in terms of improved patient access and outcomes.

Telehealth’s successful addition to options for patients to consult with GPs prompted then Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt in late 2021 to make telehealth permanent.

The move was lauded widely at the time, with Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) president Dr Karen Price saying that making telehealth permanent was a “significant step forward” for the country’s health system.

Now, as we enter the 4th year of the pandemic, albeit with a different approach to managing it as endemic, the government continues a more nuanced Covid response. 

Telehealth and Covid-19 high risk group temporary exemption

Part of this is a temporary change to how high-risk Covid patients who need a Medical Benefits Scheme funded (MBS) PCR tests can organise such.

In the past, patients needed to have an established clinical relationship of at least one previous consultation to access telehealth for these reasons.

However, the government has brought in a temporary exemption to this until March 31, 2023. Under these temporary arrangements, a GP or OMP can provide a telehealth consultation to any patient who:

  • Does not meet the established clinical relationship requirement;
  • Is eligible for Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) criteria for antiviral therapy;
  • Is experiencing acute respiratory symptoms; and
  • Is seeking a request to a private pathologist for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing in relation to COVID-19.

This exemption allows patients who meet these criteria to receive a telehealth or phone consultation for the purpose of seeking the request for an MBS-funded PCR test. 

Gorilla Jobs Blog Health News Two Changes For 2023 Woman Sitting At Dining Table At Home In Front of Laptop With Cup of Coffee Reading News On Her Phone
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Maximum cost of PBS-subsidised prescriptions drops

While many will have celebrated the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023 as an opportunity to move on a little more from some of the more trying times of the pandemic, there was something equally substantial to celebrate for those who need PBS-subsidised prescriptions.

For the first time since the PBS was established 75 years ago, the maximum cost of PBS prescriptions has dropped.

While in recent years there have been savings for some who require regular medication as larger pharmacy chains were able to offer discounts due to their buying power, this historical change in government policy will see widespread reductions.

From 1 January, 2023, the PBS co-payment for non-concession card holders was reduced from $42.50 to $30, representing a nearly 30% cut in price. And, in even better GP news, this reduction will be maintained as it is indexed every year from January 1, 2024.

This was one of the 2022 election commitments of the Labor party, so minister for health, Mark Butler, was out in force talking up this much welcomed change, spruiking that the government had delivered on its promises.

“Pharmacists have told me stories of their customers coming in with a handful of prescriptions asking for advice about which script they can go without, because they can’t afford to fill them all,” Butler said.

“Our cheaper medicines policy will make that choice redundant for millions of Australians.”

A patient fact sheet that goes into more detail about the changes and possible further reductions can be accessed here.

And also, as often happens on January 1 each year, the PBS announced new medicines to its list, including several important medications: 

  • Belcometasone with formoterol and glycopyrronium, used for the maintenance treatment of severe asthma;
  • Daratumumab for the treatment of amyloid light-chain amyloidosis (a rare disorder that occurs when the amyloid protein builds up in organs); and
  • Faricimab, which is used to treat eye diseases

The addition of these medications will help over 80,000 patients.

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