Bulk-billing rates dropping throughout rural Australia

Doug Hendrie

4/07/2019 4:30:07 PM

The declining rural numbers come as the Government announces Australia’s overall bulk billing is ‘at record levels’.

Rural town
Are dropping bulk-billing rates in the bush a warning sign?

Bulk-billing rates have fallen for the seven million Australians who live outside of major cities, prompting calls for an urgent increase to patient rebates.
The rates have dropped by -0.1% to -0.5% across all rural and regional areas, while the average out-of-pocket cost has risen by over a dollar to $38.05.
The new Medicare data comes soon after the 1 July indexation, which will add just 60 cents to the patient rebate for an average GP consultation.
Bulk billing in Queensland and the Northern Territory fell for the first time, by 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, while Western Australia was up by 1.2%.
Growth in Medicare billing rates increased by 0.2% nationally, though growth is slowing, as the RACGP predicted in analysis last year.
Out-of-pocket costs are up by $1.09 nationally, to an average of $38.05, though the increase was less than last year’s $1.56.  
According to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, the overall Medicare data shows 86% of Australians saw their GP ‘without paying a cent’ in the nine months from July 2018 to March 2019.
However, the data comes after RACGP President Dr Nespolon publicly questioned the official bulk-billing rate of 86% and suggested that around one third of all patient consultations involve payment.
The questions around the bulk-billing rate are due to the fact patients who receive many services each year – such as older patients with chronic diseases – are likely to receive more services, due to being sicker, and also to be bulk billed, due to holding concession cards.
This inflates the percentage of services bulk billed each year, but does not change the number of patients who are bulk billed each year. The Government does not regularly report the number of patients bulk billed every year.
Minister Hunt said the figures mean that ‘on average, Australians are receiving more medical services with no out-of-pocket costs’.
‘These figures show that Medicare is supporting the health and wellbeing of Australians more than ever before,’ he said.

bulk billing MBS Medicare patient rebate

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John McConachy   6/07/2019 1:28:41 PM

It would be interesting to see how these figures stack up if bulk billing by public hospitals, optometrists who then sell you glasses for approx. $1000.00 , health centres where there is public funding etc were taken out reflecting a truer value for the percentage of GP’s who were bulk billing.

Penelope Martin   17/07/2019 7:27:58 PM

86% bulk billing is meaningless unless the the item numbers which are being bulk billed are revealed.
CDM item numbers which are almost exclusively bulk billed , if they are considered in the % bulk billed this would make a tremendous difference in figures.
It cannot be that the amount Australians are paying out of pocket for medical costs is increasing at the same time as bulk billing rates ( where no out of pocket costs are applied) are increasing.
They need to stop misleading and be honest and address the increasing out of pocket costs in this country