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Why has the RACGP changed its fee structure?


Anastasia Tsirtsakis


17/04/2023 4:42:29 PM

College leaders have explained the reasoning behind new RACGP member fees, and why they are an important part of safeguarding the profession.

RACGP signage.
Under the new membership structure, members will be categorised on their gross annual income, with the threshold set at $100,000.

CORRECTION: This article was updated at 11.40 am on Tuesday 18 April. It had incorrectly stated that the RACGP’s $10 million operating deficit was announced at the 2022 Annual General Meeting. 

The rising cost of services delivery and a desire to make membership fairer across the organisation are the two main reasons behind an RACGP shake up of its membership structure, college leaders have said.
 
Announced via an email sent to all members last week, the new model will see the number of subscription categories reduced from 17 down to nine, while gross annual income, rather than years of membership, will now play a major role in determining annual fees.
 
The RACGP has said that means-testing is the ‘fairest way’ to segment its membership categories, and that regardless of any changes to members’ subscription, benefits will stay the same and the fee remains tax-deductible.
 
But President Dr Nicole Higgins also told newsGP that while she believes the changes are necessary to protect the future of the college, they have upset some members and the rationale behind them could have been explained better.
 
‘I understand the anger and disappointment about how the information regarding the change in the membership fees has been communicated by the college, and I’ve taken that feedback back to management,’ she told newsGP.
 
‘Communication between the college and members … is something that I’m committed to addressing as part of my presidency.
 
‘This is an ongoing discussion and I’ll continue to communicate with members.’
 
Dr Higgins also acknowledged concerns held by part-time GPs, noting that she is a part-time GP herself who works in clinical practice two days a week, but said ‘the majority will fall under the threshold’ and that the new structure ensures that those who earn less do not miss out on essential benefits.
 
Under the new structure, which comes on the back of a college-wide restructure aimed at finding efficiencies within the organisation, members will be categorised on their gross annual income, with the threshold set at $100,000.
 
Those who make a voluntary declaration that they earn $100,000 or more from all revenue sources before tax will fall under the ‘Full fee’ membership category, while members who earn less than $100,000 will pay the reduced ‘Concession fee’.
 
As part of the changes, the college will also be indexing its membership fees by 4.2% based on the blended Consumer Price Index rate for Health and Education, a decision made by the Board in response to the rising costs associated with the delivery of services to members.
 
In a statement issued to media late last week, RACGP CEO Paul Wappett said the changes are designed to make the membership structure simpler and fairer.
 
‘One of the reasons for [these changes] is that we had too many subscription categories, making it more difficult than necessary for GPs to determine the appropriate category for them and creating an administrative burden for the college,’ he said.
 
‘The new categories make membership simpler for GPs while retaining appropriate discounts.’
 
Meanwhile, Dr Higgins said GPs whose earnings change or who take a prolonged leave of absence, such as parental leave, will have their individual circumstances taken into consideration by the RACGP and that fees will be amended accordingly.
 
As for the $100,000 threshold, Mr Wappett said it was endorsed as the cut-off point for a concessional rate to ‘reflect approximately the median income for a three-day-per-week GP’. He also confirmed that the college has ‘no intention’ of asking GPs to disclose their income or their income sources. 
 
‘If a member wishes to avail themselves of the concessional rate, we ask only that they declare their income to be below the threshold level and that they are eligible for that concessional rate,’ Mr Wappett said.
 
The membership changes coincide with the RACGP’s operational deficit of $10 million, which the college said had been somewhat masked by additional funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
While Mr Wappett highlighted that the college ‘is not and will not be in debt’, he did note that the RACGP must reduce the deficit to maintain a favourable financial position.
 
‘The membership changes have been modelled to result in an increase in revenue of around $9 million cumulatively over the next two financial years, with additional financial sustainability gained through cost reductions,’ he said.
 
‘At the same time as these changes, the RACGP is also reducing its costs, as the cost of the work the college does has also increased. Salaries, rent, licence costs, suppliers and other costs are increasing at a higher rate than the increase in its membership fees.’
 
And with primary care reform currently in the spotlight, Dr Higgins said there has never been a more important time to be an RACGP member.
 
‘As a practice owner, it’s the work of RACGP, through its standards and advocacy, that allows my practice to operate,’ she said.
 
‘While as an individual member, the increasing role of advocacy on behalf of the profession is something I’m sure that members value.
 
‘Never before has RACGP been more visible or had more influence. If we look at the front pages of the newspapers, our meetings that we have with government and stakeholders, RACGP is at the table in a way it’s never been before and that’s the value of membership.’
 
The RACGP has said it will inform members of any changes to their subscription category along with their notice of membership renewal.
 
The updated RACGP membership categories are:

  • Full fee – $1567
  • Concession fee – $940
  • Overseas – $855
  • Senior – $629
  • GP in Training – $573
  • International Medical Graduate – $573 
  • Overseas – International – $319
  • Pre-vocational – Free
  • Retired – Free
More information about the college’s new membership categories is available on the RACGP website. Members can direct any questions about the new membership model to the Member Services team at 1800 472 247 or membership@racgp.org.au
 
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Dr   18/04/2023 8:49:52 AM

I work very part-time in medicine at the moment, basically keeping my hand in so that I can return to more full-time work later. I am also careful in the amount that I charge my patients due to their circumstances.

As a result, after I pay my registration, insurance, RACGP and CPD costs, I expect to have a gross income from medicine this financial year of less than $6000. If I have other income sources over about $94 000, the RACGP would like me to pay the full-time rate. How is that fair? What business does the RACGP have in knowing anything about my non-medical income? Honestly, this College just gets worse and worse.


Dr Christine Colson   26/04/2023 4:52:29 PM

I am staggered and astounded. I will be withdrawing my membership. What business is my income to the RACGP? This is supposed to be a professional medical college. It now looks more like a government department distributing taxpayers' dollars. The RACGP has always, in my view, been missing in action. It seems to oblivious to its own nonsense - remember 'the plan' and 'specialist in life'? The sooner I'm out of it the better.

DON'T COMPLY WITH THIS UNSPEAKABLE INVASION OF PRIVACY.

The RACGP should know better.