Would you pay $78 to visit your doctor? The Federal Government’s rebate freeze has resulted in a decline in bulk billing services offered across the country, and Aussies have been warned that the cost of seeing their GP could be on the rise.
Recent statistics from Medicare’s September quarter show that the number of bulk-billed GP services has fallen, from 85.9 per cent in July to 85.4 per cent by September. Across Australia, practices have been giving patients notice that bulk billing will cease, following the Government’s six-year freeze on Medicare rebates at the 2014 level of $37.05.
The Australian Medical Association has recommended that doctors increase their fees for a standard 20 minute consultation to $78, commencing 1 November. This means an out-of-pocket expense of $41 for patients whose doctors don’t offer bulk billing.
Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said the Turnbull Government’s health policies were “hurting Australians”. She claimed that the reduction in bulk-billing services evidenced that Turnbull’s promise in the lead-up to his election that no Australian would pay more to visit the doctor was “a complete and utter lie”.
“Australians are already seeing the impact of his six-year Medicare freeze every time they go to the doctor, with more and more patients having to pay out of their own pocket,” said Ms King.
However, president of the Royal Australian College of GPs Dr Bastian Seidel said that while the decline in the quarterly bulk-billing statistics was clear, more data would be needed to determine whether the decline was a trend.
“Most GPs started looking at their business models after the election and this won’t be reflected in this quarter’s data,” he said.
“The only trend you can see is an increase in out of pocket payments,” he said.
What do you think? Do you pay more to see your doctor? Have your received notice that your GP will cease bulk-billing services?
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