GPs should charge gap fee: AMA

The Australian Medical Association (AMA), after defeating the Government’s $5 GP co-payment fee, now wants doctors to be free to charge their own gap fee.

The AMA is pushing for doctors to have the freedom to bulk bill Medicare directly for consultations, and then charge patients a gap fee as well.

This move would mean higher overall costs for some patients, but lower upfront costs.

The system proposed by the AMA is being heralded as “much fairer” because GPs could be selective with whom they charge the gap fee, whereas under the Government’s compulsory GP co-payment, every patient would have been charged the $5 fee. If GPs hadn’t charged the co-payment fee they would have lost income, but this new system would see them gain income.

The AMA proposal would see eligible Australians no longer having to pay the Medicare rebate upfront to then be later reimbursed, as the consulting doctor would instead bill the Government directly.

In the past, there has been criticism of doctors billing the Medicare rebate and charging a gap fee for fear of increased Medicare costs, which would mean higher health care fees for everyone.

In arguing for the gap fee, the AMA believes that it is not contradicting its campaign to scrap the Government’s GP co-payment fee.

“The AMA is not arguing against co-payments, the issue was the government’s co-payment took the power away from the GP to decide who paid it,” said AMA president Professor Brian Owler.

The AMA is also asking for more GP funding under the Government’s primary health care reforms, including increased funding for co-ordinated care of patients.

It has called for the introduction of incentives that would see GPs paid a quarterly fee to monitor and undertake more preventative health services, as well as an improved co-ordinated health care model for veterans.

Medicare is currently being billed more than one million times per day, with the average Australian patient accessing Medicare funded services 17 times each year. These figures suggest that it is imperative for new processes to be put in place to ensure a more sustainable health care system.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Sussan Ley said the Government would consider any proposal that would reduce upfront costs to patients. This week she said that direct billing would not be considered under current government policy.


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What do you think? Do you feel that this system would be fairer? Would you be happy to pay less upfront, but more overall for health care? Under this new proposal from the AMA, who would benefit more – GPs or the patient?

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