A local GP said he’s struggling to continue bulk billing patients, due to changes, which have made it less financially viable.
General Practitioner and owner of Helensburgh practice Equilibrium Healthcare, Doctor Trevor Kemper, said he has limited bulk billing services offered, due to low Medicare rebates and increasing business costs.
Dr Kemper said bulk billing involves Medicare covering the entirety of a patient’s medical service, meaning it pays no gap. He said many doctors want to help people by providing this option, but they also need to support themselves.
“If I’m privately billing someone for the same service, it’s $85 dollars. If I’m bulk billing someone it’s $39 dollars, which is less than half. If I bulk bill them I don’t get any extra money from anywhere else,” he said.
“I’ve got staff to pay, electricity, cleaning, systems, IT, the works. Running a business, there’s a cost to keep everything going.”
Dr Kemper said the practice still offers bulk billing under certain circumstances, such as for children’s vaccinations, elderly health checks, for healthcare card holders, frequent patients, and specific cases of patients who can’t afford it.
However, he said low Medicare rebates paid to doctors, have led to bulk billing slowly becoming less financially viable.
University student and Equilibrium Healthcare receptionist Tess Ryan said that although most patients are understanding of the situation, some have made the decision not to go to the doctors, due to the gap.
“If less practices are bulk billing, then less people are going to go to the doctor; that’s just the reality of it,” Ms Ryan said.
“People will wait until their feet are rotting until they come into the doctors. There definitely needs to be a more even distribution of where the government sends their healthcare finances.”
The federal government recently announced that starting November 1st, there will be an increase to bulk billing incentives for GPs.
The increase will be more beneficial to practices in remote areas according to Dr Kemper, but more needs to be done to solve the problem, as these incentives are only available for certain patients.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not everything that it needs to be. I think they need to increase rebates significantly,” he said.
“The amount that it’s increasing by is better, but it’s not enough to survive on bulk billing alone.”