More general practitioners will now bulk bill under a Federal Government plan to help ease the burden of struggling Australians.
In the federal budget released on Tuesday the Labor Government announced that more than $5.7 billion will go into general practice over the next five years.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the budget increase in Medicare would immediately assist Australians who were struggling to pay for everyday expenses like primary health care due to the rise in the cost of living.
“(The budget aims to) strike a considered, methodical balance … between spending restraint to keep the pressure off inflation, while doing what we can to help people struggling to make ends meet,” Mr Chalmers said.
Since early last year, the bulk billing rate has dropped, and many GPs have been unable to provide their services without charging patients an out-of-pocket gap fee, with the Medicare rebate not sufficiently covering the rising costs of providing health care.
The budget is set to ensure the rebate amount triples by November, allowing around 11.6 million Australians to reap the benefits. It is a move Health Minister Mark Butler described as the largest increase to the bulk billing incentive in the 40-year history of Medicare.
Health economist Dr Stephen Duckett said the budget exceeded his expectations for Medicare reforms and said it was a welcome change after the bulk billing rate had sharply declined by six per cent Australia wide since 2022.
“It’s a fantastic budget for primary care,” Dr Duckett said in an interview with the New Daily.
“I don’t think they could have gone any further. They exceeded my expectations of what I thought they’d be able to achieve.”
This comes in response to the amount of bulk billed services Australia wide dropping steeply from 223.1 million last year to 176.7 million. Before this, for the past 10 years at least, that statistic had only been steadily increasing. Of all health care services, general practitioners have seen the largest decrease in bulk billing rates in the past year.
The changes to bulk billing primarily aims to provide relief to those in rural areas, concession card holders, and children under 16.
Credit: Imogen Grant