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Medicare card required to get subsidised medicines.

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Media Release Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

KP38/02 1 May, 2002

MEDICARE CARD REQUIRED TO GET SUBSIDISED MEDICINES From 1 May 2002, people will be required to provide their Medicare card to pharmacists to obtain PBS subsidised medicines, the Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

Veterans will have to show their Repatriation Card, and visitors from countries with health care agreements with Australia will have to show their passport.

May 1 2002 marks the end of the transition period for this initiative, which commenced on January 1 2001.

Australians have had 16 months to become familiar with this change, that has significantly strengthened the PBS system, by ensuring that only those people who are entitled can access valuable PBS benefits.

Senator Patterson said: "This change will in no way affect the entitlements of eligible people. It simply requires people to verify their eligibility for the PBS benefit.

"Special arrangements are in place to make sure that eligible people who cannot provide their Medicare details are not disadvantaged. These arrangements cover people in emergency situations, and some Indigenous and other Australians who may not have a Medicare card.

"People have the option of storing their number with their pharmacist so they don't have to take their card every time they collect a prescription."

Pharmacists are bound by strict privacy rules ensuring that the Medicare numbers they record for the PBS are protected and not used for other purposes.

Senator Patterson said: "I would like to thank pharmacists for their cooperation and exemplary effort in introducing this measure. To date, 95 per cent of PBS prescriptions dispensed carry the Medicare number or Veterans' Affairs card file number."

After the transition period ends on 1 May 2002, eligible consumers who choose not to provide the details may be charged the full amount at the pharmacy, and can then claim the PBS subsidy

from a Medicare office.

The Federal Government has introduced this measure to ensure that only those who are eligible have access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The initiative will save $20 million of taxpayers' money each year.

Senator Patterson said: "Our PBS system is recognised as one of the best in the world. We needed to strengthen the access as Australia was emerging as a place to visit and to obtain medicines while on holidays."

The Federal Government spends $4.2 billion a year on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to give people affordable access to necessary medicines.

Media Contact: Jacinta Cubis, Department of Health and Ageing (02) 6289 8460 / 0411 405 341

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Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing web site 1 May 2002 Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing URL: