Labor hopeful: Poorest to be hit hardest by PBS changes
WOULD you be happy to pay more for prescription medicines and doctor visits to save taxpayer dollars?
Frank Gilbert, Labor candidate for Dawson, has met with pharmacists and other medical professionals in the electorate to outline the party's $971 million promise to drop cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) if elected.
The Abbott (now Turnbull) government's 2014 budget included a proposal for Australians to pay $5 more for each PBS subscription - 80c more for concession card holders - which would save taxpayer's $1.3 billion per year.
But it was blocked in the Upper House, with Labor, and in this particular case candidate Mr Gilbert saying it will lead to the country heading "down the same path as America when it comes to our health system".
"All Australians should be able to access health care when and where they need it. That's what drives Labor's health policy," he said.
Meanwhile, the Coalition will go to the election with a budget plan to extend a freeze on Medicare rebate indexation - saving another $1 billion.
But Mr Gilbert was adamant the savings were just not worth it.
"Everyone will pay more and the sickest, the poorest and those in rural areas will be hit hardest," he said.
"President of the Australian Medical Association Professor Brian Owler estimates that this will likely cost patients up to $20 more for each GP visit.
"One in 20 Australians already say they delay visiting their GP, or do not visit at all, because of cost," Mr Gilbert added.
"Labor's policy has been costed independently by the Parliamentary Budget Office and will have an impact of $2.4 billion over the forward estimates (to 2019-20), and $12.2 billion over the decade to 2026-27.
"Labor will fund this policy through announced improvements to the Budget, including not proceeding with the new baby bonus, capping VET FEE HELP loans, and not proceeding with the tax cut for multinational companies."
Peter Ford, a pharmacist at Red Apple Chemist in Mackay, reckoned the majority of people who dropped in to fill a prescription with him were older residents using concession cards.
"Pensioners will struggle, I think, if they need to pay more for the medicines they need," he said.
"Some of the medications could cost $3-400 dollars, which they get for a relatively low price, right now.
"As it is now, the system for rebates is pretty good. Obviously, for a pensioner I'd say it's pretty vital.
"For someone taking like 10 medicines a month, which happens, they'd pay an absolute fortune without the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme."
Mr Ford said he considered himself apolitical and emphasised he was not advocating for any particular party.