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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Australians delaying essential healthcare and medicines due to cost

Health Industry Hub | February 2, 2023 |

Pharma News: The number of Australians who delayed/avoided seeing their doctor and filling prescriptions has increased, according to the latest figures.

The latest Productivity Commission Report has revealed the impact of mounting out-of-pocket medical costs for consumers.

Nationally in 2021-22, 3.5% of consumers who needed to see a GP reported that they delayed or did not see a GP in the last 12 months due to cost, an increase compared to 2020-21 (2.4%). Out-of-pocket costs increased for specialists ($98), allied health services ($61) and GPs ($42).

Additionally, 5.6% of consumers who needed a prescription for medication reported that they delayed filling or did not fill a prescription in the last 12 months due to cost, the first increase in the last ten years.

The figures come as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese prepares for national cabinet’s first meeting of 2023 on Friday, with premiers and chief ministers to lobby the federal government to reform the health system and increase hospital funding.

The report has highlighted the overburdened public hospital system consumers are currently facing. Only 65% of patients in the “emergency” category presenting to EDs were seen on time, down from 71% the previous year. And just over half of “urgent” patients were seen within the clinically appropriate time frame of 30 minutes.

Speaking earlier this week Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Professor Steve Robson, said the logjam in Australia’s public hospitals has worsened with continued workforce shortages, increased ambulance ramping, emergency departments beyond capacity and hospital beds unavailable when they’re needed.

He said “They’re more than statistics. They are human stories and they’re stories of suffering and pain of people waiting for care, waiting for urgent emergency department care, surgery and treatments around the country.”

Professor Robson said the AMA has been calling on the federal government to increase its share of hospital funding from 45% to 50%, and to remove the annual cap on activity.  

“We need long term reform, and we’re suggesting 50-50 Commonwealth state and territory funding. We need to scrap the artificial cap and we need to look at a return to pay-per-performance so that hospitals that perform well are rewarded.

“For their part, the states and territories need to commit to improve hospital performance by reinvesting that extra 5%. And both need to fund additional ongoing performance improvement, capacity expansion, and ways to reduce avoidable admissions,” he said.

Health Minister, Mark Butler, has admitted that the healthcare sector is in the worst shape it has been in its 40-year-history, and the federal government has set up a $750 million task force to improve Medicare, with its report expected imminently.

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