Date published: 
29 March 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

29 March 2018



E&OE…



Topics: Medicines cheaper from April 1, private health insurance



LEON BYNER:

This story is another piece of great news because the Federal Government is drastically reducing the cost of medicines to treat diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma and eye disease.



Pretty broad spectrum there, isn’t it? With the adding of a lot of drugs to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, known as the PBS, as of 1 April, which is virtually early next week. Let’s welcome federal minister, happy Easter, Greg Hunt.



GREG HUNT:

And happy Easter to you as well, Leon.



LEON BYNER:

Now, tells us about these drugs.



GREG HUNT:

So on 1 April what’s happening is we’re listing 11 new medicines, which cover a range of things. In particular, diabetes and then cancers such as lymphoma, lung cancer, what’s called basal cell carcinoma, which is a non-melanoma skin cancer.



And in the case of the cancer drugs, the cost will reduce from $99,000 or over $60,000 to $6.40 or $39.50. So massive reductions between the literally life changing medicine into the reach of people who just could never even contemplate affording them.



And then in the case of diabetes, what we’re doing is adding for over 170,000 Australians, a new drug called Toujeo, which means that the chance of hypoglycaemia, or what most Australians know as a hypo, is dramatically reduced with a much longer lasting form of insulin.



LEON BYNER:

So, all these drugs, which you might have been charged thousands for, are going to either be $39 or just under $7?



GREG HUNT:

Correct. So, for concession card holders, they’ll pay $6.40. For others, it will be $39.50. And this just means that medicines that were unaffordable are now on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and they’re affordable.



LEON BYNER:

Tell me are some of these drugs that you’ve talked about relatively new?



GREG HUNT:

Yes. These are medicines that have been trialled, they’ve come on through that process. They go through what’s called the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, it’s our big medical committee, that determines that they’re safe and they’re effective. And once they’ve been through that process, then they’re made available to the public at the prices that are set out.



LEON BYNER:

And this happens as of 1 April?



GREG HUNT:

Correct. And so, that’s a pretty good Easter present. It’s an important thing and for more than 170,000 Australians who will have the access to the diabetes medicine, it’s just about peace of mind and about better health outcomes.



Particularly if you’re a parent and you’re worried, rightly, that your child could have a hypo in the middle of the night. If you’ve got a longer-lasting medicine, it’s incredibly important, along with other things such as continuous glucose monitoring, it means the risk of your child having this issue in the middle of the night, a hypo, so much lower.



And then if you’re struggling with terrible conditions such as lung cancer, or lymphoma, or basal cell carcinoma, the ability to access these medicines that can dramatically improve your life and extend your life span as well, there’s not much that’s more important.



LEON BYNER:

Alright. While I’ve got you there as Health Minister, we all know that private health insurance is going up as of 1 April. But there’s another side to this that I want to ask you about. Apart from the fee increases, a lot of the health companies that are ensuring have taken off a lot of things that you once were compensated for or reduced the compensation. Now, that in effect is an increase in price, isn’t it?



GREG HUNT:

So one of the things that we’ve been able to do, and I accept your point, one of the things that we’ve been able to do is reverse that trend with mental health access, where there was a waiting period to upgrade your mental health coverage. That waiting period has now gone and that’s an extremely important thing.



We know that, especially for young people, but people of all ages, one of the biggest and most important elements of their private health insurance is the ability to get in-hospital mental health coverage when you have a crisis, when you have a real need and previously there’d been a long waiting period. That will now disappear, in order to do that. And so that’s a reversal of that historic trend that you’ve rightly identified.



LEON BYNER:

Yeah. There’s another thing here too. It’s also been explained that there are some things that you get with your medical cover, with private health, that say, let’s say you’re a mature citizen and you’ve got pregnancy or gynaecological services .



Now, clearly you’re not going to need them. However, a lot of customers are telling me, and you may have heard this, that you can’t atrophy them because they’ve actually bundled them with other services that you do need. Are you aware of this?



GREG HUNT:

Yeah, no, absolutely. So, what we’re doing, for the first time we’re creating a simple set of categories – gold, silver, bronze, and basic. And it will come with an absolutely crystal clear one-page summary, what’s in and what’s out.



So, before you buy, you’ll be able to see and choose and know exactly what’s in and what’s out, and that way you can choose the package that best reflects your particular needs. And if people get a lot of surprises, and my goal and our policy reform is to simplify the system and to make sure that you don’t have any surprises.



LEON BYNER:

Alright. While I’ve got you there, also. I know there was on the table, during the election and just before, some extra money for South Australian hospitals. Do we know how much, now, we might get from the Federal Government for our hospitals?



GREG HUNT:

Yep. There’s $1.5 billion and we’ve already had very constructive discussions prior to the elections, both with Steven Marshall, and I’ve been in contact with Stephen Wade, who started brilliantly by releasing the secret report that had been buried into the Royal Adelaide Hospital.



LEON BYNER:

The one you wrote to the Premier about- yeah, yeah.



GREG HUNT:

Yeah, yeah, on his first full day in office, he released it without fear or favour. So anyway, having said that, I am very hopeful that we will be able to sign an agreement with South Australia that will deliver an extra $1.5 billion to South Australian hospitals.



Obviously the Premier and the new minister will work for the best possible outcome for South Australia but this is a tremendous outcome.



And let’s put it this way, I’m just quietly hopeful that now that you’ve got a government that has said from day one they want to work with the Commonwealth so we can get a major infusion of funds into SA hospitals.



LEON BYNER:

Just quickly, in the media across Australia, you’d be across this, I’m sure, there was a report about three or four days ago that there’s this list of secret fees that doctors and specialists impose. You got a reflection on that?



GREG HUNT:

Yes, absolutely. By chance, last week I met, along with the Chief Medical Officer, with all of the principal medical groups on what’s called out-of-pockets. So out-of-pockets is what’s not covered by bulk billing, and not covered by the issue of your private health.



And so, what we are pushing for is, for the first time ever, a transparent set of fees. So again, you will know if you’re looking for a surgeon or you’re looking for a physician, what are the costs that you would pay out-of-pocket. And at the moment, it’s not clear and it’s not easy, and so we’ll be dealing with that.



And I have to say, I was delighted by the support of the AMA and the College of Surgeons, and others, to publish the fees, in advance, that you pay so that you can actually have informed choice when you’re picking a surgeon or a physician.



LEON BYNER:

Thank you for coming on, Greg. Good to talk to you.



GREG HUNT:

Pleasure.



(ENDS)