Women living in New South Wales may be aware of recent media regarding public chemotherapy patients at some NSW public hospitals being required to pay the PBS co-payment, or script fee, for their chemotherapy drugs.
This matter was first brought to BCNA’s attention by women attending our 2011 National Summit, who were concerned about the inequity in some public patients receiving their chemotherapy drugs free of charge, while others were paying script fees. For some women, this added hundreds of dollars to their out-of-pocket costs for their breast cancer treatment.
In collaboration with Cancer Council NSW, BCNA has investigated this issue and found that the practice of charging script fees for chemotherapy drugs is wide-spread across NSW, and not restricted to breast cancer patients. We found that in many public hospitals – both metropolitan and regional – chemotherapy patients are required to pay a script fee for their chemotherapy drugs.
Early this year BCNA and Cancer Council NSW wrote to the NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, drawing her attention to the issue and asking that the NSW Government change its funding arrangements so that public patients would not be required to pay script fees for chemotherapy drugs.
In response, the Minister asked the Deputy Director-General of the NSW Ministry of Health to meet with BCNA, Cancer Council NSW and Cancer Voices NSW to discuss our concerns. The meeting was held on Friday 1 June. The Deputy Director-General committed to undertake a scoping project to examine the costs and budgetary implications of providing chemotherapy free of charge to public patients in NSW.
He also confirmed that the Australian Government’s new Revised Arrangements for Efficient Funding of Chemotherapy Drugs applies to all cancer patients in NSW. Under these arrangements, patients pay the script fee the first time their chemotherapy prescription is filled, but do not pay a script fee for any repeats on the prescription.
BCNA knows that a cancer diagnosis can impose significant out of pocket costs and we believe these should be kept to a minimum wherever possible. It seems reasonable to us that there should be no out of pocket costs for people receiving chemotherapy through public health services.
BCNA will continue to monitor this issue while awaiting the findings of the Ministry of Health scoping project.
- Read more about the December 2011 changes to script fees for Chemotherapy drugs (Australian Government’s Revised Arrangements for Efficient Funding of Chemotherapy Drugs)