Government cancels Medicare rebates for telehealth consultations for most nicotine scripts
Posted on July 13, 2020
MOST VAPERS will no longer be able to get Medicare rebates for telehealth consultations for nicotine prescriptions due to new restrictions from 20 July 2020.
Most GPs are not willing to write nicotine prescriptions and vapers have been looking elsewhere. A small number of GPs has been providing nicotine prescriptions for vapers by telehealth (phone or video consultations).
In Australia, it is a criminal offence to possess or use nicotine for vaping unless you have a prescription from a doctor. Penalties range up to $45,000 for each offence and up to 2 years jail in some states.
From 20 July 2020, Medicare rebates for telehealth will only be available for services from your own GP with whom you have been an active patient within the past 12 months. Requests for a prescription from a remote GP by telehealth will require you to pay a personal fee.
Of course, any cost for a consultation is still only a tiny fraction of the money saved by switching from smoking to vaping. However, it will still be a barrier for many low-income people who may not be able to pay a fee.
Why are telehealth rebates stopping?
The government’s decision is based on a genuine concern that allowing patients to consult other GPs freely will ‘fragment’ medical care. You will get the best medical care if you see the one doctor for all your health needs. Your doctor knows you, your health details, allergies and medication and is best positioned to help you make medical decisions.
There are also concerns that certain commercial operators may rort the telehealth rebates, for example services services set up by some pharmacy chains.
However, the blanket ban on telehealth rebates does not allow for situations where your own GP is unable or unwilling to provide a service, such as a nicotine prescription
What this means for vapers
ATHRA recommends that vapers follow the current laws and get a nicotine prescription if they are using nicotine. There are two legal pathways
- Ask your GP about vaping and if a prescription is appropriate for you
- If your GP is unable to help, there are doctors available by telehealth who can provide this service. A modest private fee is payable for the consultation
However, it is likely that most vapers will continue to import illegally nicotine without a prescription or will purchase it on the black market. Unfortunately the laws will force many law-abiding citizens to break the law in many cases.
From 1 January 2021, Health Minister Greg Hunt has signalled that it will be illegal to import your own nicotine from overseas (even with a prescription) and a penalty of $220,000 will apply. A complicated and onerous system is proposed for the new year which will involve a complex prescription process and third parties importing nicotine, but few details are available.
This is a disaster for public health. Many vapers will go back to smoking and others will source nicotine on the black market, which is certain to thrive
If you are concerned about this, please visit your local Federal MP and tell him or her your story about vaping. Any decision to change this law will be make by Parliament and the voices of vapers need to be heard
You can find the details of your federal MP on the Legalise Vaping website. If you can’t visit, please write a letter.
Other things you can do
- Sign the Legalise Vaping petition here which is to be tabled in federal Parliament
- Make a tax-deductible donation to ATHRA to help us fight this for you
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper
Posted by Colin Mendelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org