Brisbane bulk billing rates falling fastest: Survey

Jolyon Attwooll

15/03/2023 4:48:38 PM

A survey reveals the impact of ‘inadequate’ Medicare rebates in billing trends, with a similar shift noted across the country.

A GP consulting with a patient.
Brisbane has recorded the lowest overall bulk billing rate at 14%.

General practices in Brisbane have had the most dramatic overall decline in bulk billing rates, according to a newly published analysis of billing in more than 400 clinics.
Online healthcare directory Cleanbill compared the results of a survey on general practice billing carried out in 2022 to the outcome of a similar study in 2018 involving 416 clinics.
It recorded the overall bulk billing rate as lowest in Brisbane at 14%, with the city also registering the steepest decrease of 58% since the initial survey took place. Sydney had the highest rate of bulk billing overall at 48%.  
According to the survey results, Melbourne clinics have the highest average out-of-pocket costs for patients at $46.60 for a Level B consult.
The change in out-of-pocket costs nationally showed an increase of 9.1%, going from $39.45 in 2018 to $43.03 in 2022.
Cleanbill founder James Gillespie said that while the survey tracked data for city clinics, the trends are relevant across the country.
‘What we’re observing here … is a small section of a far broader shift taking place among GPs around the country away from bulk billing and towards mixed billing services,’ he told newsGP.
‘While the statistics in individual cities, like Perth, may not be as confronting as those seen for other cities, the changes in billing practices among GPs are still being felt by people across the country every single day.’
The increasing disparity between Medicare patient rebates and inflation has frequently been highlighted by newsGP, with many general practices choosing to respond by shifting towards mixed billing.
In a poll run by newsGP last year, most respondents (54%) said an immediate 20% increase to Medicare rebates would be the most impactful reform for general practice.
Recent MBS statistics also showed the overall rate of bulk billing has fallen to its lowest in more than 10 years.
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