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Top 5 – Health Items in the 2013 Budget

1. PBS Expenditure

Forward estimate show the PBS will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate than forecast the same time last year. What is most interesting here is that the government has significantly cut its own estimates of the ongoing cost of the PBS which clearly demonstrates the impact of price disclosure in delivering savings. Perhaps we can now stop debating PBS sustainability?

2. Cancer Care

A number of new cancer care initiatives were announced in the budget with the aim of reinforcing Australia’s cancer research, prevention and treatment reputation. World Leading Cancer Care is the new package touted as a centre piece of the health budget and is no doubt in the national interest. However, the $226.4m pledged to this package of initiatives represents only 0.3% of the total $79.2bn allocated for health and aged care expenditure.

3. Chemotherapy Funding

The 2013 budget outlines an additional $29.6m in interim funding to increase the fees paid to pharmacists for preparing and dispensing chemotherapy medicines until December 31 2013 while a review of chemotherapy arrangements is undertaken. Welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild, these payments sit outside the current 5th Community Pharmacy Agreement. However, it is difficult to see the government repeating this practice, and may not take lightly to coughing up money outside any newly negotiated 6th agreement.

4. Private Health

Citing the need to take a rigorous approach to savings to enable an increase in hospital funding the government has reiterated the requirement to means test the private health insurance rebate. This speaks to the government’s desire not only to seek savings, but to seek value for money when it comes to health expenditure – for patients and for taxpayers.

5. The nfp’s

Two particular items in the 2013 Budget were marked nfp – not for publication. An unspecified amount of money has been set aside to fund the amalgamation of the TGA with its New Zealand counterpart to form ANZTPA. While there are many within the pharmaceutical industry who don’t believe this second attempt at ANZTPA will get off the ground, it is clear that the cost of setting up this agency will be significant. Figures are not published in the Budget papers “due to ongoing negotiations with the New Zealand government”

Secondly, there is an unspecified allocation to fund the Department of Health and Ageing in taking legal action in matters relation to the PBS, as there was in 2012. Such actions may relate to price disclosure or post-market reviews, but we should remember that the government is currently seeking compensation on the delayed entry of generic clopidogrel.

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