Bulk billing slump a consequence of neglect

Successive governments failings to adequately fund the Medicare rebates patients use to access their GPs has caused a record slump in clinics offering bulk billing, AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton told the Today Show.

Transcript: AMA Queensland President, Dr Maria Boulton, Today Show with Karl Stefanovic and Sarah Abo, Monday 26 February 2024

Subjects: Bulk billing

KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, 87 per cent of electorates saw a decline in bulk billing last year. Ten have no bulk billing clinics at all. It's a record slump, forcing many Australians to put off medical appointments. For more, let's bring in President of the Queensland AMA, Dr Maria Boulton in Brisbane. Maria, good morning to you. Stats are really concerning. What do you reckon is behind this and how is it going to get fixed?

DR MARIA BOULTON: Good morning, Karl. These stats are really confronting but we're not surprised really, because for decades now, successive governments have failed to fund the Medicare rebates that patients use to access their GPs adequately. So, what we're seeing now, is that GPs are not able to continue to bulk bill all patients and keep their doors open. And this is why it's really important for the government to do more to ensure that patients have access to their GP.

We know GPs keep people healthy, well and out of hospital, and it makes absolutely no sense to not ensure that patients are funded enough through the Medicare rebates to continue to have that access.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Look, a number of these places are closing down as well. I think GPs do an incredible job. The Federal Government tripled the bulk billing incentive back in November, so what, has that had no effect?

DR MARIA BOULTON: It’s had very little effect. And while we welcome any funding into general practice and primary care, the reality is, that for example in Queensland, there has only been a small increase in bulk billing since the tripling of the bulk bill incentives. That increase has been 2.1 per cent, it’s been felt more in regional and rural areas. And I guess we need to remember that the bulk bill incentive only applies to a small portion of Australians. So those who are under 16 or on a concession card are bulk billed, but for 16 million Australians, for them it meant absolutely no difference. We’re calling for Medicare reform, we’re calling for more funding for everybody to have access to their GP when they need to.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Alright, this story is not going away, I appreciate your time today.

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