Medication affordability challenges weigh on Australians as cost of living pressures rise

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Izzy Sheppard feels like she’s constantly treading water to get her medical expenses under control.

“I am three unexpected medical appointments away from losing a large chunk of my life savings,” they said.

“What really turns me on is I’m going to be like, ‘I have to go to the store and spend $50 on groceries, go to the drug store and get my script’ and then be like, ‘Oh, I’m not spending $50, I spend $100’.

“‘I really shouldn’t be buying these things from the shops to be able to pay for my monthly medication’.”

“I have to save up to go to the doctor to get my repeat, which is $60 plus another $40 for my medication.”

Bi-weekly appointments with the psychologist, along with other medical appointments and prescription drugs, compete with rising costs of living, such as food, fuel and electricity.

At times, the Canberra-based arts worker has had to delay medical appointments.

“I really try not to, but I’ve moved the doctor’s appointments to the next pay fortnight so I can afford to go,” they said.

“I stopped going to the physio, I haven’t been to the dentist for two years.”

The national president of the Australian Pharmaceutical Society says pharmacists see people choosing between “putting food on the table or using the money to get their medicine”.(Pixabay)

Choosing between food and medicine

Health care affordability has emerged as the top financial concern of Australian voters, in a survey of 15 key seats commissioned as part of the Australian Patients Association and Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Affordable Medicines campaign. Now.

The level of voter concern increased by 5%, from 78% of voters in January to 83% in April.

The number of voters finding drugs difficult to afford also increased by 5%, to almost a third of respondents, while the number of people who were unable to buy prescription drugs because they did not couldn’t afford rose 3% to 17 percent of voters.

Fei Sim, the national president of the Australian Pharmaceutical Society, said it was a growing problem.

“It is essential that every Australian continues to have access to affordable medicines.”

Dr. Fei Sim smiles at the camera.
Dr. Fei Sim says everyone should have access to affordable medicines.(ABC News: Pedro Ribeiro)

The federal government lowered the PBS backstop threshold in early July.

For concessional patients, the changes meant they reached the threshold after paying 36 full-price concessional scripts (up from 48) and would receive PBS drugs free for the rest of the year.

General patients only have to pay the concessional co-payment of $6.80 after 34 full-price scenarios, down from 36 before.

Starting in January 2023, the co-payment for PBS drugs will drop from a maximum of $42.50 to $30.

Dr Sim said while these measures would help with affordability, it was still not enough.

‘No more fat to cut’

Sally Parkes looks at the camera.
Sally Parkes, who suffers from chronic migraines and arthritis, worries about unforeseen medical bills.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

Sally Parkes, a Melbourne woman, lives with chronic migraines and arthritis.

“Last month I had to see a specialist at the last minute, see a physio, see a GP and change my prescription medications within a month,” she said.

“And it’s all very expensive to do in a short time.”

Ms Parkes found that after taking out a mortgage in December, she no longer had the savings buffer to cover unforeseen medical expenses.

“When an unexpected cost came along, I had to revamp something, I had to say no to doing something like going out,” she said.

Sally Parkes with a dog.
Sally Parkes says there was a time when she “had to shell out an extra $100 here and there” to try different medications.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

Ms Parkes said she was feeling the rise in other living costs and had run out of fat to cut from her budget.

“I’m lucky to have a family I can rely on, so there have been a couple of times where I’ve had to ask for a little bit of financial help to cover the costs,” she said. .

“There was a period where I was changing meds a lot and it was only every fortnight that I had to shell out an extra $100 here and there just to try different ones that would work and it was getting quite expensive.”

Affordability issues are more prevalent

Pharmacists and GPs are urging people to speak to them early if they are having trouble getting medicines or appointments.

Chris Moy, vice-president of the Australia Medical Association, said the issue of health care affordability was becoming more pervasive.

“The issues with people being able to afford their medications and therefore not taking them or saving money by skipping doses has always been a problem,” he said.

“I certainly hear it more now because of concerns about being able to afford other things, being able to get food for example, making sure people can afford food and other things. things like energy, electricity.”

Dr. Chris Moy smiles at the camera.
Dr. Chris Moy says doctors are able to help make drugs more affordable in many circumstances.(Supplied: AMA)

Dr Moy said doctors were able to help people in many circumstances.

“For example, we can look at their whole list of drugs and start prioritizing what’s really important and what’s less important, we can also offer people cheaper options, switch to a cheaper brand or a drug completely different that can have a very similar effect but will cost a lot less,” he said.

“It can first harm your health, not only in the short term but in the long term, also impact your ability to earn an income, which means you will go from frying pan to fire in terms of style of life.”

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