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Medicare bulk-billing and GP fee changes: What you need to know

The bulk-billing incentive will be tripled today, while GP appointment fees will also rise.

Some Aussies may find it easier to get their doctor visit bulk-billed from today, while others will be hit with higher costs, as major Medicare and healthcare changes kick in.

The Australian government is tripling the bulk-billing incentive paid to doctors. This is separate to the Medicare rebate and applies to doctors who bulk-bill certain vulnerable groups.

The cost of non-bulk-billed GP appointments are also set to increase from today, after the Australian Medical Association (AMA) recommended doctors hike their fees to combat rising costs.

Medicare card and Australian money.
Major changes to Medicare bulk-billing and GP appointment fees are coming into effect today. (Source: AAP/Yahoo Finance)

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What you need to know

Bulk-billing changes:

  • The bulk-billing incentive for doctors will be tripled

  • It applies to children under 16 years, pensioners and Commonwealth concession card holders who are bulk-billed

  • The amount varies depending on your location. For metropolitan areas, it will now be $20.65. For very remote areas, it will now be $39.65

  • It covers many common GP visits, including face-to-face appointments longer than six minutes, telehealth and video-conference consultations

GP changes:

  • The AMA recommended doctors charge $102 for a standard consultation, up from $98

  • This is a guide only, meaning GP clinics won’t all charge the same rate

  • The Medicare patient rebate will increase by 20 cents to $41.40 for a standard consultation

  • If GPs charge the recommended amount and the rebate is applied, this means patients may end up $60.60 out of pocket

🗣️ What they said

AMA vice-president Dr Danielle McMullen: “Tripling the bulk-billing incentives is a good place to begin restoring affordable access to primary care, as it will provide targeted cost-of-living relief for patients who need it most.

“While GPs remain free to determine their own fees, these changes will go some way to addressing the growing social inequities as Australia’s GP bulk-billing rates continue to decline.”

RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins: “Bulk-billing has declined significantly in recent years because Medicare rebates have been below inflation for years, and are nowhere near the cost of care. GPs have been subsidising the full cost of care every time they bulk bill their patients.

“These changes are essential targeted relief for patients who need it most, but this significant investment follows decades of underfunding. It’s very clear there is a long way to go in strengthening Medicare, but this is an important first step and a major investment for families and our most vulnerable patients.”

🤔 Why should I care?

  • For patients, how much you pay depends on whether or not you are bulk-billed

  • If you are bulk-billed, you won’t pay anything. If you aren’t, you may pay more from today

  • Millions of Aussies are putting off seeing the doctor because they can’t afford it. Research from Compare the Market found one in five people were avoiding spending money on health appointments because of cost-of-living pressures.

🔢 The story in numbers

  • The bulk-billing incentive will apply to 11.6 million eligible Aussies

  • Bulk-billing rates have dropped to their lowest in a decade, falling to 80.2 per cent in the last financial year

  • This is the third time this year the AMA has recommended doctor’s raise their fees to keep up with rising costs

🗞️ For more about Medicare...

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