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Clarity on Close the Gap Co-payment initiative


Morgan Liotta


13/09/2022 1:41:04 PM

Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients are being incorrectly told they are no longer able to register for the PBS-subsidised program.

Patient with pharmacist
All Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people can be registered for the co-payment, regardless of age or chronic disease status.

In 2021, registration for the Close the Gap (CTG) PBS Co-payment program, which provides easier access to PBS-subsidised medicines, was extended to ensure all eligible patients were registered by 30 June 2022.
 
But while the extension aimed to ensure there was minimal disruption for eligible participants, it also appears to have caused confusion, with some patients being told they are unable to access the program if they were not registered by the cut-off.
 
However, this is incorrect, and the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoH) website clarifies that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients are still able to register for the CTG PBS Co-payment program if they meet eligibility requirements.
 
‘From 1 July 2021, any PBS prescriber or eligible Aboriginal Health Practitioner can register eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the program,’ the DoH states.
 
Registration of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be done via the Services Australia Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) portal with a linked PRODA account and is a one-off registration.
 
Dr Tim Senior, RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Medical Advisor, told newsGP that GPs should be aware of how the program currently operates.
 
‘Any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people can be registered for the co-payment, regardless of age or chronic disease status or risk,’ he said.
 
‘Patients are now registered through PRODA, and their registration can be checked on PRODA.
 
‘Some patients who were registered under the previous system haven’t been transferred to the new system, but they can now also be registered using PRODA.’
 
Eligibility for the program includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of any age who are registered with Medicare and:
 

  • would experience setbacks in the prevention or ongoing management of a condition if the person did not take the prescribed medicine
  • are unlikely to adhere to their medicines regimen without assistance through the program.
 
A suite of fact sheets for healthcare providers and patients is available on the DoH website, to ensure GPs and practices have the right information to provide to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, while Services Australia has further information for prescribers.
 
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Medicines and Policy Programs department told newsGP it was still receiving questions about the old PBS CTG Co-payment arrangements up until the new system was implemented, highlighting the ongoing confusion among GPs.
 
Consequently, Alice Nugent, pharmacist advisor at NACCHO’s Medicines Policy and Programs, believes there is still a need to clarify the situation for GPs and practices.
 
‘Registration through the Services Australia PRODA HPOS portal can be done by any GP, or delegate, or AHPRA-registered Aboriginal Health Practitioner,’ she said.
 
‘A common error is GPs ticking the “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander” box in demographics of prescribing software, which does print “CTG” on the script, but doesn’t interact with the portal or actually register the patient.
 
‘Registration only needs to be done once in a lifetime, then the PBS CTG price will automatically be added to all PBS scripts at any pharmacy anywhere in Australia – so it is worth doing the work now to get it sorted.’
 
Ms Nugent said GPs may also benefit from additional information about available ‘interacting’ programs.
 
‘All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients can now get free Dose Administration Aids [DAAs], ie webster packs, sachets, blister packs, under the Indigenous Dose Administration Aids program,’ she said.
 
‘Patients are registered by the community pharmacy, who claim $11.60 per week direct from the Government through the Pharmacy Programs Administrator [PPA] portal, with an understanding they should be communicating with the prescriber regarding what they are packing.’
 
Since the cessation of the Quality Use of Medicines Maximised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People program in 2021, the PPA’s Indigenous Health Services Pharmacy Support Program funds Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations to deliver quality use of medicines activities.
 
Ms Nugent also reminded GPs that none of these programs can be used to fund non-PBS medications.
 
‘This sometimes takes GP education to ensure they choose PBS alternatives, where available,’ she said.
 
Alternatives are listed on the PBS fact sheet.
 
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander PBS Co-payment program prescribing quality use of medicines


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