Asthma medicine savings: Bulk Billing incentives and rebates for longer appointments
Electrification of homes: positive step but more is needed
Welcomes vaping and smoking reform
The health of people living with asthma greatly benefits from significant health Budget measures.
Asthma Australia welcomes transformative health Budget measures that address the cost of medicine, Medicare rebates, and access to bulk billing doctors’ appointments announced in Tuesday night’s Federal Government’s Budget 2023.
Under the Budget, more than two million Australians living with asthma including families on low incomes will be able to halve their annual medicine bill, a very welcome measure that will help Australians breathe better.
There will be a new Medicare rebate for doctor consultations 60 minutes or longer, which will give doctors the support they need to provide high-quality care to people with chronic conditions such as asthma, and complex needs. It’s hoped this will encourage patient-centered care for people with asthma.
From 1 November, Medicare bulk billing incentives for doctors will triple, greatly improving access for people with asthma to see a doctor, where eligible, in both cities and in remote areas. In metropolitan areas, the standard consultation bulk billing incentive benefit will increase to $20.65 instead of $6.85. In remote areas, the bulk billing incentive for a standard consultation will increase from $13.15 to $39.65.
“These budget health measures will be life-changing to many people living with asthma and their families who are struggling to breathe and pay the bills,” says CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman.
“We have one of the highest rates of asthma in the developed world.
“The double dispensing savings for people with stable asthma will reduce out-of-pocket costs, reduce GP and pharmacy visits and associated costs, and reduce the likelihood of patients missing or rationing their medicine at the end of each month because they can’t afford another prescription,” says Ms Goldman.
“The burden of asthma is often felt more in lower-income demographics. We are so pleased to see this budget supporting these members of our community.
“People have told us they often skip doses to stretch out medicine or share medicine around the family due to cost. We hope to see this change for these families.
“Most asthma preventers are covered by the new two-month supply for the price of one policy.
“This is very welcome and a significant step forward for people living with asthma, especially families experiencing financial hardship who don’t qualify for concession cards,” explains Ms Goldman.
The Budget confirmed that the Federal Government is taking action to ease cost of living pressures by allowing millions of Australians living with chronic conditions to buy two months’ worth of medicine for the price of a single prescription. If their health condition is stable, they can potentially access a year’s worth of repeats from one doctor consultation.
The rollout will occur over three tranches starting 1 September 2023, with details yet to come on which medicines will be included in each roll-out until September 2024.
In general, patients could save up to $180 per medicine, per year, if their medicine is covered by the policy and prescribed to them for 60 days.
Concession card holders will save up to $43.80 per year per medicine.
In addition to the co-payment reduction from $42.50 to $30 put in place from 1 January, this change will deliver extra cost savings to people with chronic conditions who use medicines daily to manage their conditions.
Asthma Australia understands the asthma medicines listed by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee for increased dispensing cover nearly all asthma prescription preventers including, but not limited to the below list (for generic names and active ingredients):
Alvesco (160 and 80); Arnuity Ellipta (100 and 200); Breo Ellipta (100/25 and 200/25); Flixotide (100/60) Flutiform (125/5); Fostair; Seretide (100/50 and 125/25); Pulmicort Respules; Pulmicort Turbuhaler (100, 200 and 400); Qvar (100 and 50); Seretide (100/50 and 125/25); Symbicort Rapihaler (50/3, 100/3, 100/6 and 200/6); Symbicort Tubuhaler (100/6 and 400/12); Trelegy Ellipta (200/62.5/25).
For visuals: https://asthma.org.au/medicines/preventers/
“It’s important for people to know that this is not a uniform rule. We understand doctors will need to assess the person’s chronic condition as being stable and determine whether it is appropriate to prescribe a two-month supply of their medicine including repeats. This will likely mean a person who has well-controlled asthma, who is stable on their regular preventer medicine, will be able to access the two-month supply up to a year’s supply,” said Ms Goldman.
“We also remind people with asthma and their carers that even if they are able to access a year’s worth of medicine from a single visit to their GP, with their script and repeats, they still should see their GP if their asthma control changes or they experience a flare-up,” she added.
ELECTRIFICATION OF HOMES
The announcement of the Household Energy Upgrades Fund to support home upgrades that improve energy performance is a step in the right direction says Asthma Australia.
The fund will provide low-cost loans and mortgages with private lenders for home upgrades that will save energy and improve efficiency.
The asthma peak body was hoping for more direct incentives that would help people on low incomes move towards electrification that would improve indoor air quality reducing asthma risk and sources that contribute to new asthma diagnoses.
“We will wait to see how these Budget measures will target low-income households to replace gas appliances with efficient, electric alternatives. We need measures that incentivise action and fast, as we don’t have time to lose on indoor air pollution, energy bills or household greenhouse gas emissions,” says Ms Goldman.
“Critically, any household electrification support must include phasing out polluting wood heaters and include incentives for landlords so renters aren’t left behind,” she added.
Asthma Australia’s pre-Budget submission called for supporting people with asthma on low incomes to install cleaner and more efficient forms of heating, cooling and cooking in their homes.
“We have some good initiatives from the government in terms of support to improve energy efficiency, social housing upgrades and to increase the supply of clean energy. There needs to be emphasis on the forms of heating and cooling that are inefficient, polluting and affect people’s health, and we look forward to working with the Government towards this goal,” Ms Goldman added.
Asthma Australia will continue to advocate and raise awareness of the importance of healthy indoor air in Australian homes following findings from their Healthy Homes Report released this year.
VAPING AND SMOKING REFORMS
Asthma Australia called for a ban on the importation of nicotine-containing vapes in their submission to the TGA on e-cigarettes regulatory reform, which has been adopted in the strongest crackdown on smoking Australia has ever seen.
“We welcome the inclusion of $737M in funding for tobacco and vaping reforms. We are deeply concerned about the adverse health impacts of using nicotine vaping products, given the conclusive evidence e-cigarette use causes a range of adverse health impacts, including respiratory disease. Vaping products should not be used by non-smokers or young people because of the known short and mid-term adverse health impacts and risk of development of chronic lung disease,” said Ms Goldman.
Asthma Australia is pleased to see half a billion dollars going towards improving cancer outcomes for First Nations people and expanding the Tackling Indigenous Smoking Program.
Asthma Australia strongly supports the need for programs to support smoking cessation and those young people now addicted to nicotine caused by unregulated vaping products.
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