Explained: PBS Safety Net and how it works

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is a lifeline for thousands of Australians, but many aren’t aware of the PBS Safety Net and how it saves them money. So how does it work?

Since it was first introduced in 1948, the PBS has helped cover the cost of medicines for millions of Australians and their families. Cheaper medicines on the PBS are available to all Australian residents who hold a Medicare card.

But there’s another way the PBS keeps the cost of medicine down – the PBS Safety Net.

Basically, once you or your family spend above a certain threshold, all medicines on the PBS will be either free (for concession card holders) or a maximum of $7.70 per script (for those without a concession card).

As of 1 January 2024, the thresholds are $277.20 for concession card holders and $1647.90 for general patients.

Before you meet the threshold, each medicine will cost up to $7.70 for concession card holders $31.60 for general patients.

Once you reach the threshold, you’ll need to fill out and lodge an application for a PBS Safety Net Card in order to get the discount at the pharmacist.

If you spend more than the threshold before you get your card, you may be entitled to a refund on the amount paid.

If multiple members of your family access PBS medicines, then you may be able to combine your spending in order to reach the Safety Net faster.

Centrelink considers ‘a family’ to be any of the following:

  • a couple married and not separated
  • a couple in a de facto relationship with or without dependent children
  • a single person with dependent children.

A dependent child is someone who is all of the following:

  • they are younger than 16 or a full time student younger than 25
  • they attend school, college or university
  • they get substantial financial support.

To combine your family’s PBS amounts, complete the PBS/RPBS Safety Net prescription record form and application for a Safety Net Card form. Each time you collect PBS medicine, hand both pages of the form to the pharmacist. The pharmacist will then record what you and your family spend on PBS medicine.

For the purposes of eligibility, a family is defined as any of the following: a couple married and not separated with or without dependent children, a couple in a de facto relationship with or without dependent children or a single person with dependent children.

To combine your family’s PBS amounts, you’ll need to complete a PBS/RPBS Safety Net prescription record form.

If you get an early supply of medicine, the amount won’t count towards your PBS Safety Net threshold.

If you’ve reached the threshold, you can’t get an early supply of medicine at the reduced PBS Safety Net rate.

Have you applied for a PBS Safety Net Card before? How did you find the process? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: The difference between concession cards

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