News

General practice billing: A snapshot


Morgan Liotta


31/10/2018 3:12:38 PM

Patient out-of-pocket costs and bulk-billing rates are increasing, but there is slow overall growth of GPs choosing to bulk-bill.

Out-of-pocket costs for patients visiting their GP are increasing each year, General Practice: Health of the Nation 2018 shows.
Out-of-pocket costs for patients visiting their GP are increasing each year, General Practice: Health of the Nation 2018 shows.

The RACGP’s General Practice: Health of the Nation 2018 report combines various data, including Medicare statistics that suggest 86.1% of general practice services are bulk billed.
 
Despite this figure providing an indication of total bulk billed services in Australia, it does not represent the total number of patients who are bulk billed or the number of patients who are bulk billed for all of their general practice care. Patients may be privately billed or bulk billed for different services they receive during a single visit to their GP.
 
The current average patient co-payment, or out-of-pocket cost, for a single visit to a GP is $37.39, an increase from $35.86 in 2016–17.
 
These figures validate that patient out-of-pocket costs have continued to rise each year, as Health of the Nation shows previous average out-of-pockets costs were:

  • $31.00 for 2013–14
  • $32.00 for 2014–15
  • $34.00 for 2015–16
  • $36.00 for 2016–17
  • $37.39 for 2017–18.
 There was an increase of 4.35% between 2016–17 and 2017–18 – more than double Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the same period.

The Health of the Nation report states these costs vary from state to state, with the ACT, NT and remote areas experiencing higher out-of-pocket costs for GP visits than other areas.

Despite the rise in out-of-pocket costs, only 4% of patients reported that they delayed or avoided seeing their GP due to cost.
 
There were varied rates of bulk billing in 2017–18, with some GPs (23%) choosing to bulk bill all of their patients, and some not at all. General practice settings account for this variety, as solo practitioners are more likely than group practices to bulk bill all of their patients.
 
Overall, while bulk-billing rates are increasing at face value, growth is low, with fewer than one in four GPs choosing to bulk bill 100% of their patients.
 
As of 1 November, a number of changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule, which will affect general practice billing, will be implemented.



bulk billing co-payment health of the nation Medicare out-of-pocket costs





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