Three out of four patients bulk billed by GPs
Three out of four visits to the family doctor are bulk billed with no out-of-pocket expense for the patient, the Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.
30 August 2002
Three out of four patients bulk billed by GPsThree out of four visits to the family doctor are bulk billed with no out-of-pocket expense for the patient, the Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.
She was commenting on today's release of Medicare statistics for the June quarter, 2002, and the 2001-02 annual figures.
The June quarter Medicare figures show the rate of bulk billing for patient visits to their GPs is 73.9%, down 0.6 of a percentage point from the March quarter.
The rate of bulk billing for all services for the quarter was 69.9%, down 0.6 of a percentage point from the March quarter, 2002.
Senator Patterson said the bulk billing rate for GP services for people aged 65 years and over was 82.3%.
"It is heartening that doctors continue to bulk bill older Australians at a high level because many are on fixed incomes and they need to go to the doctor more often," she said.
"Bulk billing continues at high rates with about 70% of all services and almost three-quarters of GP services offered free of charge to patients."
Senator Patterson said the bulk billing rate for all services in 2001-02 was 70.4%. This was higher than the last year of the Keating government. The rate of bulk billing for all services in 1994-95 was 69.6%.
"Although there has been a decline in bulk billing, it is uneven across areas. The rate has been and remains low in some remote and rural areas and outer-metropolitan areas.
"However, it remains high - in some areas well above 80% - in many suburban and inner-city areas."
She said one of the key factors in achieving higher rates of bulk billing was getting more doctors to practice in areas of need, such as regional and rural areas and outer-metropolitan areas.
The Federal Government is spending $550 million over four years to provide incentives for doctors to work in areas in regional and rural areas and $80 million to attract more doctors to outer-metropolitan areas.
Senator Patterson said: "We must work to maintain bulk billing as an integral part of Medicare. What I want is a proper and sensible discussion with doctors' groups on this issue.
"We need to talk about how we achieve a reasonable payment for doctors; a fair distribution of doctors throughout Australia; fair and equitable access for patients; and quality outcomes that deliver us proper care for the health needs of Australians."
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