High numbers of Australians continue to receive the medical care they need at no cost to themselves, with recent data showing almost 9 out of 10 visits to the GP in the last quarter were provided with no out-of-pocket cost for the patient.
GP bulk billing rates reached 89.6 per cent in the quarter from July to September 2021. This is an increase of 0.7 percentage points from the previous quarter (April to June 2021). It is also 7.9 percentage points higher than July to September 2012-13 (81.7%).
Across all Medicare services, the bulk billing rate reached 82.4%, an increase of 6.5 percentage points since 2012-13 (76.0%).
In the July to September 2021 period, a total of 108.8 million medical services were bulk billed to Medicare, 13.3 million more than in the same period last year.
Telehealth items, introduced to Medicare as part of the health response to the pandemic, contributed to high bulk billing rates. These items also helped to reduce the risk of spreading the disease in the community, saving and protecting lives.
From July to September 2021, Medicare paid benefits for 1.6 million COVID-19 video consultations and 12.7 million COVID-19 phone consultations which were provided by GPs, specialists and allied health professionals.
The telehealth items represented 22.9 per cent of GP consultations in the July to September 2021 period. COVID-19 vaccine services reached 9.5 million and represented 18.4% of all GP consultations.
With an investment of $106 million, telehealth will now become a permanent feature of primary health care in Australia. It has proved to be transformational to health care delivery and is a key element of the Government’s successful COVID-19 response.
Telehealth has ensured greater flexibility for patients and doctors to deliver health care and has played a critical role in ensuring continuity of care for millions of Australian patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.