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Government’s key Medicare Budget measures kick in


Jolyon Attwooll


31/10/2023 9:12:08 PM

The tripling of the bulk-billing incentive announced in May’s Budget now begins, along with a raft of further changes.

Child at GP
The new incentive will apply to bulk billed consultations for children aged under 16, as well as concession card holders.

Flagship measures, including the tripling of the bulk-billing incentive, brought in by the Federal Government to address the decline in bulk-billing rates, have now started.
 
The beefed-up incentive, which the RACGP called for, is the most high-profile of the initiatives announced in the May Federal Budget for introduction later in the year.
 
It means significant extra incentives will now apply for bulk-billed consultations for children under the age of 16 and those with concession cards, with the payments tiered according to location as defined by the Modified Monash Model (MMM).
 
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the move is crucial to address previous cuts to the MBS rebate, including a six-year freeze.
 
‘These changes are essential targeted relief for patients who need it most, but this significant investment follows decades of underfunding,’ she said.
 
‘It’s very clear there is a long way to go in strengthening Medicare, but this is an important first step and a major investment for families and our most vulnerable patients.
 
‘We don’t like to think in these terms, but if people delay care due to costs, health issues can progress and not just cause more harm, but increase the strain on hospitals and cost more for the health system to address.’
 
Earlier this week, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggested a link between declining numbers of GP services in the first half of this year and increasing out-of-pocket costs.
 
When the Budget was announced in May, the RACGP welcomed the investment to counter the drop in bulk billing.
 
‘The tripled bulk-billing incentive for standard consultations is a critical stopgap to slow the decline in bulk billing,’ Dr Higgins said.
 
‘It’s targeted relief that will help GPs to bulk bill more patients who need it – children, pensioners, and healthcare card holders.’
 
The more remote the MMM location, the greater the bulk-billed payment incentive is.
 
Now, a standard bulk billed consultation for an eligible patient in a metropolitan area receives an increased incentive of $20.65 when it stood at $6.85 previously.
 
In very remote areas, the incentive to bulk bill patients increases to $39.65, up from $13.15.
 
Overall, the Government has put aside $3.5 billion over five years for the measure.
 
Bulk-billing rates have declined substantially over the past two years, with many general practices across the country moving towards mixed and private billing to keep patient care sustainable in the face of stagnating rebates and rising costs.
 
In its pre-Budget submission, released in January, the RACGP requested the tripling of the bulk-billing incentive as part of ‘targeted care for those who need it most’.

The tripled incentive applies to all eligible face-to-face consultations of more than six minutes, as well as Level B telehealth consultations.
 
It will also apply to longer telehealth consultations, but patients will need to be linked to the general practice through the new MyMedicare scheme, which was also announced in the May Budget.
 
A standard bulk-billing incentive – ie at pre-Budget rates – will apply to Level A consultations as well as video and telephone consultations longer than 20 minutes when the patient is not part of MyMedicare.
 
As well as the bulk-billing incentive, the Government has tripled the Veteran Access Payment (VAP) for some GP services, a measure that applies from today for veterans who hold a DVA Gold or White Card.
 
Earlier this year, one Canberra GP clinic announced they would have to stop accepting the Veteran White Card due to concerns about financial viability.
 
New longer Level E appointments – consultations longer than 60 minutes – also begin from today, another introduction that had been advocated by the college to help GPs deal with more complex presentations.
 
Other headline measures included $445.1 million of funding to support a 30% increase to the Workforce Incentive Program, with a top payment of $130,000 depending on the practice size. There was also a $1.5 billion boost to Medicare rebate indexation.

Shortly after the Budget, newsGP ran a survey asking readers whether the measures announced were likely to make them increase the number of patients they bulk bill.
 
Of those who responded, 18% said the Budget would increase the amount, while 70% said it would not. The rest stated they were unsure.
 
For more on the MBS changes this month, read the full details on newsGP.
 
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Dr Holly Inglis   1/11/2023 6:08:37 AM

But what are the actual numbers?
Be nice if Medicare released them before they were active.


Dr Geoffrey Ronald Greig   1/11/2023 5:32:36 PM

As has happened since I’ve been a GP the government gives with one hand and takes with the other. I’m sure they have done the maths and the 1 minute extra on the item 3 will nicely reduce the net effect to not that much. All optics with no genuine good will or support from the government.
Don’t fall for it and continue to privately bill