Budget reveals $5.7 billion general practice investment

Matt Woodley

9/05/2023 8:23:34 PM

Funding will go towards the creation of a new level E consultation item, rebate indexation, telehealth, the bulk billing incentive, and multidisciplinary care.

2023-24 Budget papers.
The 2023–24 Federal Budget contains $5.7 billion in general practice funding (Image: AAP)

The Federal Government has announced a host of additional general practice funding in the 2023–24 Budget, reflecting many of the RACGP’s advocacy requests
More than $5.7 billion is set to go towards general practice over the next five years, with the package including:

  • $445.1 million to support a 30% increase to the Workforce Incentive Program, increasing the maximum payment to $130,000 per practice
  • $99.1 million to facilitate the creation of a new level E MBS item for consultations lasting 60 minutes or longer
  • $3.5 billion over five years to triple the bulk billing incentive
  • $112 million over four years, separate the Strengthening Medicare funding, to introduce a new general practice in aged care incentive payment
  • Funding for longer telehealth item numbers, tied to registered patients (not bulk billing)
  • $145 million to support after-hours care, targeted at homeless and culturally and linguistically diverse people
  • $50 million for wound consumables, specific to patients with diabetes aged over 65 years
  • the extension of Practice Incentive Program Quality Improvement (PIP QI) payments for at least another 12 months
  • $4.5 million over five years to increase rural generalist trainees by expanding the single employer model trials by a further 10 trial sites from 1 July

During his Budget speech, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the new measures will reduce cost and wait times, while extending consultation lengths.
‘One of the things that makes this the best country in the world is our shared belief that every Australian should be able to access affordable, reliable healthcare,’ he said.
‘It will ensure that, for millions of people, the quality of your healthcare is guaranteed – not by your credit card but by your Medicare card.’
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the Budget represents the largest investment in general practice care in decades, and shows that the Government is heeding the college’s message about general practice’s central place in Australia’s healthcare system.
‘This $5.7 billion funding package puts patients first,’ she said. ‘It will help to stem the bleeding, relieve pressure on our hospitals, and ease pressures on people struggling to afford the care they need.
‘I’m delighted the Government has listened and responded to the RACGP’s calls to support our GPs, practice teams and the patients we care for.
‘[It] will make a real difference for all Australians and is what the RACGP has been working with Government to secure for some time.’
Under the changes, metropolitan children and concession card holders bulk billed by a GP will receive a $60.40 Medicare subsidy, compared to the standard $39.75 rebate.

In regional Australia, this will increase to $71.15 for children and concession card holders, while in the most remote areas the rebate will extend to $79.40.
Medicare rebates will also be increased twice in 2023, which will lift the current level B MBS item from $39.75 to $41.40 by the end of the year.
Dr Higgins said funding for multidisciplinary care and a new 60-minute MBS item is especially welcome, while the increased bulk billing incentive will provide GPs with more options when treating vulnerable patients.
‘Tripling the bulk billing incentive will help to increase access to care for those Australians who need it most and arrest the decline in bulk billing,’ she said.
‘A new Medicare item, Level E, for consultations over 60-minutes, will improve access to care for patients with complex needs, such as those with chronic conditions. 
‘The substantial increase in the Workforce Incentive Program [WIP] is a positive step to enable general practice to grow existing multidisciplinary care teams within general practice. This is essential support for GPs caring for people with complex chronic disease.’
The new level E MBS item will provide patients with a $183.66 rebate, which will rise to $205 when incentives for children and pensioners are added.
Finally, the RACGP President cautiously welcomed the introduction of longer telehealth consultation items, which she noted had no bulk billing requirement attached.
Dr Higgins said the RACGP will continue to work with the Government on longer-term reforms to strengthen Medicare and rebuild general practice care for patients.
‘We’re pleased Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler has heeded the RACGP’s calls and reinstated Medicare patient rebates for longer phone consultations as a permanent fixture of the nation’s telehealth system,’ she said. 
‘Tonight’s Budget is the result of strong advocacy by the RACGP on behalf of our members and their patients.  
‘We will continue to work with the Government on these critical reforms to strengthen Medicare and rebuild general practice care for Australian patients.’
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Dr Christine Colson   9/05/2023 9:08:59 PM

Credit where it's due. Good job.

Dr David John Hunt   9/05/2023 9:20:43 PM

Enough just in time or too little too late?

Dr David Nevell Phelps   9/05/2023 9:36:44 PM

I'm really pleased, and grateful, to see investment in general practice at last. I will be able to bulk bill concession card holders again, and I'm sure many others will be in a position to do the same going forward.

Dr Colin Scott Masters   10/05/2023 8:55:59 AM

What are the incentives for multidisciplinary care - can't see any details around that?

Dr Abdul Ahad Khan   10/05/2023 11:33:37 AM

Dr. Christine Colson, the Credit does not go to the RACGP at all.

The Credit 100% goes to the BRAVE GPs who moved away from Bulk-billing & started charging a Fees befitting the Respect & the Honour that a GP deserves.
GPs are the Reason why Australia leads the World in the provision of the highest quality of Primary Care.
GPs are the Lynchpin of Primary Care.
Due to these BRAVE GPs alone, the Govt. fearing a Vicious Backlash from the Voting Populace caved in - they did so, in order to please the Voting Populace & remain in Power.
My Salutations to the BRAVE GPs who refused to crawl & Beg - these BRAVE GPs stood up with Dignity & with Self-Respect !!!!!
These BRAVE GPs deserve 100 % of the Accolades.
The RACGP simply has grabbed the Opportunity to ' Shine in Borrowed Feathers '.

Dr Nicholas Kunzer   10/05/2023 1:28:09 PM

looks like an excellent outcome for general practice. I will likely move back to bulk billing concession card holders and be able to continue to provide telehealth to patients.

Dr Dan Pettersson   10/05/2023 6:02:36 PM

The rebate rise is good news for patients, not doctors like myself who have already abandoned bulkbilling. As a rural GP I abandoned bulkbilling because there are no registrars in rural areas. (This is the real crisis, not the mbs rebates. you won't need to worry about MBS rebates if there are no GP'S). The rebate is the patient's rebate, not the doctor's fee and quite frankly I'm sick of pointing this out. The RACGP let's politicians paint the medicare rebate as the doctor's fee ("..good news for doctors"..)
When the medicare rebate matches the AMA fee and is indexed to that I'll resume bulkbilling, until then this is a welcome win for patients.

Dr Stephen Windley   10/05/2023 6:26:05 PM

"Tripling bulk billing" is being splashed everywhere, even on the President's update. It's only the incentive that's increased. And then, it has only increased $13.80.
Now I do realise that compared to the increases that General Practice has seen for the preceding decade, it is a decent increase, but seriously, some honest and realistic reporting wouldn't go astray.

Dr Glenn Calvin Davis   9/06/2023 6:26:37 AM

I totally agree with Dr Christine Colson . The College has no right to blow its own trumpet over the budget changes . The College has never been supportive of GPs as far back as I can remember especially in the 1970s and every decade since