Is bulk-billing going the way of the dodo?

Updated 07/09/2022
Is bulk-billing going the way of the dodo?

Last year alone there were over 377 medical treatments bulk billed in Australia.

Time to read : 3 Minutes

Is Bulk Billing Going The Way Of The Dodo?

Today fewer than 60 per cent of Australians are receiving free healthcare, and that number is set to get worse as more general practitioners (GP) opt out of bulk-billing altogether.

In August alone, one in five GPs said they had changed their billing model.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Adjunct Professor Karen Price says,

"Bulk-billing rates are in free fall and without urgent action some patients will be left behind."

What you need to know

Bulk-billing is a simple and sometimes free way your doctor gets paid for treating you. Essentially, instead of billing you, they bill Medicare.

  • Australia's bulk-billing system was set up to provide universal and, where possible, free treatment for Australians – particularly for children and the vulnerable.

  • The problem is that the Medicare rebate is currently at $39.75 for a 20-minute consult (up an insignificant 65 cents from last year) and general doctors are struggling to keep their doors open.

  • Patients will struggle to get care if they can't afford to pay the difference between their doctor's fees and the Medicare rebate.

  • The RACGP warns that if funding isn't increased then people will end up at emergency. Dr Karen Price explains: “One hospital admission could pay for a patient to visit their GP twice a week for a year.”

  • The current Medicare system rewards doctors who treat more patients quickly. They're paid $6.52 for an appointment that last six minutes, but earn less than $2 a minute for longer appointments. This means that sicker and chronic patients are more expensive to treat or will need to pay the difference in cost.

  • Health Minister Mark Butler has said that our system is “in its worst shape since Medicare began." And it hasn't been helped by the pandemic or the previous Government freezing Medicare rebate for six years either.

The bottom line

Speak to your GP, find out if they bulk-bill and find out what the gap is. If it is more than you can afford to pay, visit Health Engine to find an affordable GP near you.

  • If your current GP is unable to bulk-bill, then find one who can.

  • Healthdirect recommends keeping up your medical care and has a 24-hour number you can call.

  • Consider taking private health insurance to close the gap.

The information contained on this web page is of general nature only and has been prepared without taking into consideration your objectives, needs and financial situation. You should check with a financial professional before making any decisions.