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Budget leaks indicate there may be a rise in the cost of prescription drugs.

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Thursday 11 April 2002


Budget leaks indicate there may be a rise in the cost of prescription drugs.


LINDA MOTTRAM: There’s more pre-budget wrangling this morning with fres h budget leaks signalling rises of up to thirty per cent in the cost of some subsidised medicines as the Government tries to rein in the escalating cost of its national drug scheme and the Opposition says it is the elderly and infirm who will be hit hardest but there could be some good budget news for disadvantaged job seekers who could be able to claim up to $1,000 for things like a new suit or extra training.  


From Canberra, Political Report Mark Willacy. 


MARK WILLACY: With the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme groaning under the weight of a seven hundred million dollar blow out last year, the Government’s razor gang is sharpening its scalpel.  


Leaks designed to soften the public up, suggest subsidised medicine prescriptions for pensioners and concession cardholders will rise more than a dollar to $4.75 and for general patients, well they’ll be forced to fork out $30.00 for scripts up from $22.40. 


STEPHEN SMITH: If John Howard and Peter Costello are such fantastic economic managers and we’ve got 4% growth, why do we need the sickest and the poorest in our community to pay for their budget bottom line?  


MARK WILLACY: Labor’s Health spokesman Stephen Smith says the flag rises equate to 30% and he argues that if the increase is ticked off in the budget the most vulnerable will be hit hardest. 


STEPHEN SMITH: Over a twelve monthly period in Australia there are about one hundred and fifty million prescriptions written. About one hundred and twenty million of those are from pensioners or health cardholders.  


You look at these thirty to forty per cent proposed or possible increases, that would raise the Commonwealth close to four hundred million dollars. It is a four hundred million dollar slug on families under financial pressure for essential medicines and pensioners under financial pressure for essential medicines. 


MARK WILLACY: The Office of the Health Minister, Kay Patterson failed to return AM’s calls but yesterday Senator Patterson warned that something had to be done to ensure the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme did not collapse under the weight of spiralling costs. 


KAY PATTERSON: If we do not have a system that is viable then it will be incredibly difficult for everybody to access drugs on a pharmaceutical scheme but I’m not going to comment one way or the other. I just want to say that we all have responsibility to ensure that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is sustainable into the future. 


MARK WILLACY: While the Government will try to make savings on subsidised medicines, it could be handing out new suits and extra training for disadvantaged job seekers. A report in today’s Age newspaper says some unemployed will be able to claim vouchers of up to $1,000 to help them find work.  


Employment Services Minister, Mal Brough. 


MAL BROUGH: We are a Government of innovation. We also believe that you should continue to strive for better and as such I’ve seen the report in The Age newspaper today and that sort of approach was certainly mentioned in the productivity review of the job network and we’ll continue to do what we can for the most disadvantaged job seekers. 


MARK WILLACY: Something like a voucher system then? Something like $1,000 to help people move house, buy a new suit, to give them extra training, that is something the Government is looking at maybe in a budget context? 


MAL BROUGH: We don’t close our mind to anything. We are trying to put together, as I say, the best package to provide the best value to the taxpayer and the best value to unemployed Australians willing and wanting to get back to work. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Employment Services Minister Mal Brough speaking to Mark Willacy in Canberra.