The National Association of People With HIV Australia (NAPWHA) has grave concerns that increased charges on doctors’ visits and pharmaceutical co-payments will deter some people living with HIV from accessing essential treatment and care.
The Abbott Government’s Budget proposes to introduce a $7.00 fee for patients to visit their GP and to increase co-payments for medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Under the changes, scripts will increase by $5 up to $42.70 for general patients; and by 80c for those with concession cards – taking the cost to $6.90.
“This budget hits our most vulnerable the hardest,” said NAPWHA’s President Robert Mitchell.
“We are at a critical juncture in HIV treatment and prevention at the moment,” he said. “People with HIV are being encouraged to take up treatment in order to benefit their own health and to safeguard their partners.
“We know that any increase in pharmaceutical co-payments reduces spending—discouraging some from taking up treatment and others to refill scripts.”
Other HIV experts have voiced concern over the changes, saying they will hit patients with chronic illnesses the hardest. Of these, those on lower incomes are most vulnerable.
There are also fears that the GP fee will deter people testing for HIV. This may lead to an increase in HIV transmission rates.
Health Minister Peter Dutton said the measures were engineered to ensure Medicare’s long-term sustainability and to combat a shortfall in funding. Critics of the changes – which come into effect next year – said they spelled the end of free universal healthcare in Australia and would lead to a two-tiered health system.
Meanwhile, changes to welfare will see under 35s on the Disability Support Pension have their ability to work reassessed by Government-appointed doctors. Such a move could see thousands of people on the DSP forced to take part in compulsory work programs – or face sanctions.
For further information or comment relating to this media release, please contact Aaron Cogle, Deputy Director, or Adrian Ogier, Manager Media and Health Promotion, in the NAPWHA office: 02 8568 0300