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Further downward spiral in bulk billing rates


Jolyon Attwooll


17/05/2023 3:04:52 PM

The first statistics since the Budget show one of the biggest year-on-year falls yet, with new incentives due to kick in from November.

Further downward spiral in bulk billing rates
More and more patients are paying a gap with the decrease in bulk billing rates.

The tripling of bulk-billing incentives was a headline from the latest Federal Budgetand the latest data shows the scale of the slide the Government is looking to address.
 
Quarterly data released this week shows that overall GP non-referred attendances had a bulk-billing rate of 78.1%.
 
That fell from 88% for the same period last year and represents the lowest quarterly rate in the 15 years of existing statistics now published by the Department of Health and Aged Care.
 
For standard level B consultations the story is similar, with 74.7% of those from January to March being bulk-billed compared to 78% in the previous quarter and 84% for the same time the previous year.
 
Statistics published earlier this year also showed the number of patients who are bulk billed for every service they receive.
 
The DoH figures, made public for the first time in February, reflect substantial variations between different Primary Health Network (PHN) areas across the country.
  
They indicate that the ACT has the lowest rate of patients who are fully bulk billed, with 37.6% of people in the area recorded as having all their GP services covered by bulk billing.
 
NSW was the area with the highest bulk billing rate at 70.3%, a figure boosted by the Western Sydney PHN where 90.3% of patients had all their consultations covered without a gap fee.
 
In last Tuesday’s Budget, the Government announced a $5.7 billion investment into general practice over the next five years, with $3.5 billion of that allocated to the increased bulk billing incentives.
 
Metropolitan GPs will receive $20.65 extra per standard consultation once the initiative starts in November, with $39.65 going to GPs in the country’s most remote areas.
 
A total of $1.5 billion has also been set aside for MBS indexation.
 
The Budget has been described as a game-changer by the RACGP, which had made the tripling of the bulk billing incentive a key request in its pre-budget submission.
 
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