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Wednesday, 13 October 1971
Page: 2290

Mr BUCHANAN (McMillan) - Under these clauses the. intention is to increase the charge of 50c to what is said to be the appropriate maximum amount. This afternoon I pointed out that the fee in respect of the general public is to be doubled; there is to be an increase of 100 per cent. The patient's contribution has not been increased since 1960, and the inference is that now the Government thinks that the general public can afford to pay more because of the change in the relative value of the cost of the service and in the average earning rate of the community. I suggest that it is sometwhat inconsistent not to be applying the same reasoning to an increase in the chemist dispensing fee which, strangely enough, has not been increased since about the same time - 1960 - when it was fixed at 30c. This year a grudging increase of 2c was granted, although the demonstrable costs involved in providing the service of dispensing had risen considerably, as the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) has pointed out. In that same period the remuneration paid by the Commonwealth to doctors for pensioner services rendered - and this is a service fee, just the same as the dispensing fee ishas increased from $1.20 to its present level of $2.50, which is an increase of well over 100 per cent.

However, for the chemist the main problem with the charge of the $1 patient contribution is the difficulty of collecting it. I have already suggested the need for an insurance scheme to . cover this cost. But I want to add that chemists in country districts already lose quite an appreciable amount in uncollected charges of SOc. Often a country chemist does not see the actual customer. A messenger brings a prescription in and collects the medicine, or it may even be sent out to the customer by mail delivery or with the baker. Although the average number of prescriptions per person per year is given as 4.26 for last year - and it sounds as if everyone should be able to afford $4.26 a year - what I am concerned about is the position of the chronically ill. I refer to the asthmatics, the diabetics and people with heart conditions who need regular medication and who usually find that there are 2 or 3 items on each prescription form. I think that $1 is far too much.

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