Rebate increase welcome, but not enough: RACGP

Amanda Lyons

2/07/2019 2:44:31 PM

A $187 million increase to Medicare rebates comes into effect this week, but the RACGP argues it does not fully address long-term underfunding of general practice.

MBS online at computer
The ending of the Medicare freeze is welcome, but more funding is needed to fully address funding gaps in general practice.

The Federal Government’s planned increase to Medicare rebates came into effect on 1 July.
‘The Government is providing $187 million to increase patient rebates for 176 GP service items on the Medicare Benefit Schedule [MBS],’ Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

‘These services include health assessments, chronic disease management plans, and mental health services provided by GPs.’
Rebates for general practice services provided through MBS will increase by 1.6%. While the re-indexation of some general practice services was not originally intended to occur for another year, the Government decided to include all of them in this year’s budget.
Minister Hunt was keen to again highlight bulk-billing rates, which he said have hit a record level of 86%.
‘This means that almost nine in 10 general practice services under Medicare were bulk billed at no cost to the patient,’ he said.
However, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon contends that the freeze on indexation has lost general practice much more than the government’s $187 million spend, which is to be spread out over four years.
‘General practice has lost almost $1 billion as a result of the Medicare freeze, and despite indexation GPs are collectively falling behind by $40 million a year, every year,’ he told newsGP.
‘This is costing patients, who often have to make up the shortfall out of their own pockets. And it is also costing GPs, who sometimes find themselves having to absorb rising costs in the interests of providing quality patient care.
‘This situation is not sustainable, particularly as rates of chronic disease continue to rise, and at the end of the day, it is our population’s health that suffers.
‘It is becoming more and more important to recognise the true value of general practice.’
The RACGP continues to call for a better, regularly applied measure of indexation to more accurately reflect the increasing cost of quality healthcare.
Dr Nespolon also points out that investing in general practice ultimately saves money.
‘Hospital and tertiary care are of course a vital part of our health system, but they are expensive,’ he said.
‘Comprehensive care from GPs can prevent many patients from needing that acute, tertiary care in the first place, and it can do it at less cost.’
The increased rebates for general practice MBS items to take effect from 1 July include:

Provider type Description Item
GP Attendance less than 20 minutes 00023
GP Attendance 20–40 minutes 00036
GP Attendance to prepare GP management plan 00721
GP After hours attendance less than 20 minutes 05020
GP Attendance to coordinate team care arrangements 00723
GP Attendance to review GP management plan or team care arrangements 00732
GP Attendance lasting at least 40 minutes 00044
GP Residential aged care facility call out fee 90035
GP (bulk billing) Regional, rural and remote bulk billing incentive, for a patient under 16 or a Commonwealth concession card holder 10991
GP (bulk billing) Bulk billing incentive, for a patient under 16 or Commonwealth concession card holder 10990

item numbers MBS Medicare Benefits Schedule Medicare freeze

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Kavitha   3/07/2019 7:51:22 AM

Really very nice and it’s good to know about the Medicare items and billing systems
and if you conduct webinars regarding the Medicare billings and items numbers that will be great and the practice managers will get more knowledge and also that can save or it can bring up more quality improvement and care to the patients
Webinars are very useful bcz we can attend any time.
It is really an eye opener

Dr Nazareena Essop Ebrahim   3/07/2019 7:50:14 PM

Spot on Kavitha.
A webinars on Medicare items and billing’s would be great for drs and registrars.