Jan 24, 2022

Pensioners can now access free rapid antigen tests – but pharmacists don’t have the stock

Free RATS for pensioners

Earlier this month, a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases put pressure on the PCR testing regime and caused a huge increase in demand for RATs, which immediately became scarce. 

When consumers could locate RATs, they were often being sold at steep mark-ups, prompting calls for the government to provide the rapid-turnaround tests for free.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded by making RATs free for concession card holders, who could pick up the tests at pharmacies for no charge.

Concession card holders are entitled to 10 free RATs per quarter, with a limit of five per month.

However, RATs are still selling out as quickly as they can be stocked on shelves.

Chris Freeman, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), told the ABC that pharmacies are employing additional staff just to deal with customer queries about RAT supplies.

Some pharmacies are receiving at least four calls per minute about stocks, he said.

As well as concerns about supply, pharmacists are worried about covering the costs of the tests.

The government will reimburse pharmacists $10 plus GST for each test, but the PSA believes a rate of $15 would be more appropriate, considering current demand is outstripping supply.

Dr Freeman told the ABC, “Those tests are extremely rare at the moment, which does push up the price – so the $10 plus GST [reimbursement] is a challenge, in terms of making sure that the pharmacies can buy them in at a price equal or lower to that.”

He said pharmacists may also experience cash flow problems because the government may take up to a month to reimburse them for the tests.

Asking pharmacists to purchase the tests on the open market is only likely to compound the price pressure, according to Dr Freeman.

Ideally, the government would provide the tests to the pharmacies, he said.

The government will regularly review RAT costs to ensure reimbursements are keeping pace with market prices.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said 16 million tests are due in pharmacies by the end of the month, and 33 million will be delivered in February.

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  1. RAT tests are not that easy to do if you have problems with visual acuity, co-ordination and difficulty understanding and following the instructions on the pack. Our son tested negative on RAT because he could not tolerate the swab but then tested positive on PCR when someone else did it for him. Who is going to check the reliability of these RAT test results ? Many older people live by themselves and have limited support so they cannot get anybody else to do the RAT for them.

  2. How come somebody got my rat
    Test kits are you meant to show
    Photo I’d s ??
    This the second time . What a low life that steals and I miss out .the
    Matter as been reported to all people concerned and the police
    .what happens now ???

  3. As a aged pensioner i was told at our chemist i would have to pay for test kits,so no more testing for me.

  4. I have just been charged $35.00 for a test kit at my local chemist I am a aged pensioner and I was shocked when I found out the price. Dont they want us to rest anymore It should be a lot cheaper or free for pensioners

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