Seven out of 10 GP visits have no out-of-pocket expense for patients
Seven out of 10 visits by Australians to a GP involve no out-of-pocket expenses and eight out of 10 people aged 65 years and over are bulk-billed, according to the latest Medicare statistics.
15 November 2002
Seven out of 10 GP visits have no out-of-pocket expense for patientsSeven out of 10 visits by Australians to a GP involve no out-of-pocket expenses and eight out of 10 people aged 65 years and over are bulk-billed, according to the latest Medicare statistics.
In the September quarter 2002, the rate of bulk billing for patient visits to their GPs was 71.2%, down 2.7 percentage points on the previous quarter.
In the September quarter, 79.4% of GP visits for patients 65 years and over were bulk billed - provided free of charge.
The Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said she was committed to working with doctors to ensure that patients had affordable access to medical services.
"It is heartening that doctors continue to bulk bill older Australians at high levels because many are on fixed incomes and they need to go to the doctor more often," she said.
"I am very appreciative of doctors who consider their patients' financial circumstances and are continuing to bulk bill low or fixed-income patients.
"Naturally, I am disappointed that the rate of bulk billing for general patients seeing their GPs has slipped. However, the Government cannot dictate to doctors how much to charge their patients."
Senator Patterson said that bulk billing was an important part of a healthy Medicare system which continued to work well. However, it was of concern that the figures showed that doctors were choosing to bulk bill their patients less often.
She said the Government was examining ways to ensure people had affordable access to GP services.
Senator Patterson said: "Calls by some medical groups for a doubling of the Medicare rebate would be very costly - $2.7 billion a year - and offer no guarantee of patients having access to quality health services.
"I ask doctors to consider their total funding from the Federal Government's spending on general practice - including Medicare rebates, the Practice Incentives Program and General Practice Immunisation Incentives - which has increased by around 24 percent in the four years up to and including 2002-03."
Senator Patterson said she was discussing with doctors and patients to determine how to achieve a better targeted distribution of doctors throughout Australia so that all Australians had fair, equitable and affordable access to quality medical services, regardless of where they lived.
For more information contact Randal Markey, Media Adviser, 0417 694 520