A federal budget aiming to keep medicine and healthcare affordable for Australians?

15 May 2024

Health care

A federal budget aiming to keep medicine and healthcare affordable for Australians?

Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced a federal budget on Tuesday night that was stacked with measures aiming to keep medicine and healthcare affordable for Australians amid the cost of living crisis. 

The government had the challenging task of delivering a budget that would keep inflation in check while also providing cost of living relief. To do this, in part, it relies on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme to make sure Australians can afford their essential medicine. 

Elsewhere, every household will get $300 off their electricity bill. Stage 3 tax cuts will see Australians on all incomes taking home more money. Aged care workers and child care workers have been delivered much needed wage increases. And teaching, nursing and social work students will get $320 a week while on placement. 

Freezing the maximum cost for PBS prescriptions

Under a $3 billion commitment to help community pharmacies deliver cheaper medicines with the new Eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement the government has committed to freezing the maximum cost for PBS scripts. That means this year and next year, no‑one will pay more than $31.60 for PBS scripts. 

For concession card holders and pensioners, the government is freezing the maximum cost for five years. Six out of 10 PBS scripts go to pensioners and concession card holders, and this measure means they won’t pay more than $7.70 for the medicine they need.

The government announced $3.4 billion for new and amended listings on PBS. The cost of one breast cancer treatment - abemaciclib (Verzenio®) - has been lowered thanks to the PBS, from around $100,000 down to just $31.60.

Medicare and NDIS news  

This budget delivered $8.5 billion in new money into health. That includes spending on 29 urgent care clinics, adding to the 58 already opened, which offer walk-in care seven days a week completely covered by Medicare.

For the second year in a row, the government increased the Medicare levy low-income thresholds for singles, families, seniors and pensioners to account for inflation.

The threshold has been increased up to $26,000 for individuals while the family threshold has been increased to $43,846. For single seniors and pensioners, the threshold has been increased to $41,089 while the family threshold for pensioners and seniors will increase to $57,198. 

For National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) users there was some bad news, the automatic top up of NDIS plans when a participant uses all their funds will be ended to reign in spending as the government looks to curb the growth of the NDIS. Money has also been allocated in this budget to detect NDIS fraud. 

Tax cuts

The government’s biggest cost of living relief measure came in the form of tax cuts. From 1 July every taxpayer will receive a tax cut, paying less income tax. 

The government reworked the tax cuts to better benefit those on lower incomes. Anyone earning less than $146,000 taxable income will receive a bigger cut than previously legislated, while anyone earning over that will receive a smaller cut.

The reforms reduce the 19% tax rate to 16%, reduce the 32.5% tax rate to 30%, raise the threshold at which the 37% tax rate applies from $120,000 to $135,000 and raise the threshold at which the highest rate of 45% applies from $180,000 to $190,000.