The cost of visiting the doctor has increased by $10 in the past 12 months, as the number of GPs bulk-billing patients dwindles.
Doctors are now charging patients an average fee of $74.66 for a standard consultation, which includes a Medicare rebate of $39.75.
This is a $10 increase from the average fee of $64.02 charged in 2022, the findings from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) found.
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The number of GPs bulk-billing all their patients has also halved over the past year, dropping from 24 per cent in 2022 to just 12 per cent in 2023.
Meanwhile, the proportion of GPs who bulk-bill the majority of patients has dropped from 40 per cent to 30 per cent, year on year.
The significant drop in bulk-billing, where patients do not have to pay anything, is “reflective of anecdotal reports from GPs about the increasing cost of providing healthcare services in general practice and further compounds patient access issues”, the report noted.
The drop in bulk-billing rates is more evident in metropolitan areas than remote and very remote areas, while rates remain higher in most socio-economically disadvantaged areas.
Meanwhile, the national survey of GPs found four in five practice owners were concerned about the viability of their practice, and 71 per cent reported experiencing feelings of burnout. A third said they intended to retire in the next five years.
RACGP resident Dr Nicole Higgins said urgent action was needed to boost the GP workforce across Australia.
“Our report is further evidence that we are facing a looming shortfall of GPs, and we need to do much more to attract and retain this essential workforce, for the health of Australians now and into the future,” Higgins said.
Medicare and GP changes kick in
The RACGP’s annual survey of 2,048 GPs was conducted prior to the major healthcare changes kicking in on November 1.
The Australian Medical Association recommended doctors lift their prices from November to $102 for a standard consultation to help cover rising costs, up from $98 in July and $90 in March.
The Medicare patient rebate also increased by 20 cents to $41.40 for a standard consultation.
The federal government has also tripled the bulk-billing incentive paid to doctors. This incentive applies to doctors who bulk-bill children under 16, pensioners and Commonwealth concession card holders.
The amount varies depending on location and is now $20.65 for metropolitan areas and $39.65 for very remote areas.