Medicare

I rise to speak on member for Boothby's motion relating to health care and I'd like acknowledge the incredible work of the former Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and the former coalition government, who added 2,800 drugs to the PBS, representing an average of 30 per month. I know how hard Minister Hunt worked on doing this in his time in that portfolio. We also saw an increase in Medicare funding from $19 billion to $36 billion a year, and bulk-billing, despite what those opposite say, increased under the previous government from 82½ per cent to 88½ per cent. I am informed we're now seeing bulk billing rates decrease under the watch of the current health minister.

I think those opposite may have forgotten a little bit that this budget of the Department of Health and Aged Care seems to be a bit of a cost-saving measure for the Treasurer. I say that because we see Medicare subsidised psychology sessions halved, Medicare urgent-care clinics pushed back—and I know this personally because one was meant to be in my electorate—and the removal of Fiasp from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in a few months. It absolutely keeps, in particular, young people with type 1 diabetes alive. We see 60-day dispensing, which will cut money out of pharmacies in every town and city across our country, and they are absolutely crying out for help. I'm not talking about big pharmacies; I'm talking about little community pharmacies and the threat of closing. I've had really distressed pharmacists come and see me about that. They are one-person shows and they don't know what to do with the measures that are coming into place through this government.

The government talks a big game on health, but the fact is they're not delivering what Australians need right now. Take the Better Access Initiative as a prime example. The minister announced in December 2022 that he would take the government backed psychology sessions from 20 to 10. On the very first day of this year, those sessions were cut. I know many psychologists who did not get a Christmas break as they saw desperate Australians who needed to use the additional sessions to complete their treatment or because they were rewriting their treatment plans. So many families were blindsided by the Labor health minister's decision. I had crying families come to me with their stories about using up the allocated sessions a few months into the year, and with the cost-of-living crisis they are struggling to provide for their children's mental health needs. I have young people as young as 16 saying that they're now making the decision of whether to put food on the table or to have their psychology sessions, because they don't have the support of their families. This is just not fair.

Fiasp is a fast-acting insulin which 15,000 Australians rely on daily. It is amazing because it's rapid relief for those with diabetes. This is transforming lives and making sure that young people who may have had to sit on the sideline can actually be like normal kids. It means they can get back to playing sport and to their daily life and not have to think about type 1 diabetes every single minute of the day. But, yet again, as another cost-saving measure, we see Fiasp being cut from the PBS, and it was at short notice. People were really blindsided. Patients were given only a few weeks to renew their scripts; they had to get them done within weeks and have them signed off by April. Now we have until October, when it will cost families so much more for this life-saving insulin. In fact, they're probably not going to be able to access it, unless some serious negotiation is taking place behind the scenes. I seriously hope that the outcome will be positive for the thousands of families who need this insulin.

In terms of the Medicare urgent care clinics, Labor made such a big deal of this in my electorate during the election campaign, and they did it to win votes. We were promised that it would be up and running by now, and it has not been delivered in the time frame possible. Paring back and taking away the politics, this was promised to my community. We want the urgent care clinic so people can start using it. It's causing strain on Nepean Hospital, and there has been uncertainty about the delivery. I think that's another broken promise by this Labor government just to buy votes in a marginal seat during an election campaign, and that is absolutely not right.

There's also the government's 60-day dispensing policy. Sunit operates two TerryWhite pharmacies in my community, and he said that he'll have to charge $20 for the Webster packing, instead of $2. These are real people with small businesses supporting our community, and they are suffering with the uncertainty of the cuts to the 60-day dispensing. This is not a government that cares about the health of Australians.

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