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Australian GPs say bulk billing system is on brink of collapse

Doctors warn that bulk medical services are on the brink of collapse as GP clinics struggle to stay open amid rising costs

  • More and more GPs have started advising patients that they will no longer pay a bulk bill
  • Out-of-pocket costs for GP services have increased by 60 percent in the past ten years
  • Experts say bulk billing is not financially viable for GPs despite patient demand
  • Started charging gap fees, including patients who need their services most

A trip to the doctor could soon become much more painful for Australians as the nation’s bulk billing system is on the brink of collapse as patient demand skyrockets.

Hundreds of clinics are struggling to survive due to a decline in the number of GPs and a shortage of foreign-trained doctors coming to Australia.

Rising operating costs are also hurting practices, as drug discount revenues continue to decline.

Average out-of-pocket expenses for primary care physicians have increased by 60 percent over the past decade.

Many clinics have no choice but to start charging fees to all patients, including those who need their services most to keep their doors open.

GPs have begun advising patients that they can no longer bill in bulk – a practice that is becoming more common.

A growing number of GPs are making the heartbreaking decision to end bulk billing and pay patients the full cost (stock image)

A growing number of GPs are making the heartbreaking decision to end bulk billing and pay patients the full cost (stock image)

“It’s now come to a point where practices can no longer support bulk billing,” said Bruce Willett, vice president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. the Australian.

Some of Australia’s largest medical center operators joined forces earlier this year to form the Primary Care Business Council to address the many challenges faced by GPs.

Director Peter Stratmann said the industry is on the brink of collapse as bulk billing is no longer financially viable.

The Medicare Benefits Schedule discount for a standard consultation recently increased by 65 cents to $39.75.

“We’ve seen practices have to close and in recent weeks we’ve increasingly seen practices impose private billing fees because they won’t make it otherwise,” said Dr. Stratmann.

“They just can’t make ends meet without imposing a few private fees.”

He admitted that the plight puts retirees in a dire position and fears they will overwhelm the hospital’s non-emergency care system at a higher cost to taxpayers.

GPS clinics struggle to keep their doors open despite growing patient demand (pictured patients queuing at a doctor's clinic during the pandemic)

GPS clinics struggle to keep their doors open despite growing patient demand (pictured patients queuing at a doctor’s clinic during the pandemic)

Nearly nine out of ten GP visits across Australia in 2021 were billed in bulk at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient.

According to the latest Medicare data, bulk billing rates for primary care physicians rose to a record high of 88.4 percent in the December quarter of 2021, up slightly from 0.3 percent from 12 months earlier.

The news comes days after Health Minister Mark Butler warned that primary care is in “worse condition than in the entire Medicare era” at the Australian Medical Association’s annual conference.

“It’s hard enough getting a GP right now and we know the current generation of older GPs is pretty exhausted, especially in the last two and a half years, and we just don’t have the pipeline coming through,” said Mr Butler to the conference.

“It’s probably the most terrifying trend I see in primary care.”

Anthony Albanese’s administration has established the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, boosted by a $750 million Strengthening Medicare fund as part of its commitment to primary care physicians.

“The government is committed to ensuring that Australians get the care they need, when they need it, and without worrying about the cost,” said Mr Butler.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Vice President Bruce Willett (pictured) says GP practices can no longer support bulk billing

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Vice President Bruce Willett (pictured) says GP practices can no longer support bulk billing

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