The Albanese Labor Government’s tripling of the Bulk Billing Incentive Payments is a signature Labor policy with a good headline but no positive impact for the majority of Australians, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health Anne Webster says.
General Practitioners receive triple the current Medicare incentive to bulk bill concession card holders and children under 16 under a new policy that came into effect on Wednesday, but while it is a welcome change it will not assist patients in towns with no GP at all.
“These incentives, while a good headline, do not make a difference for many in regional Australia who cannot access a GP thanks in no small part to Health Minister Mark Butler’s Distribution Priority Area changes, which bled the regions of doctors at a stroke of the pen,” Dr Webster said.
Dr Webster said bulk billing rates had declined every month since the Albanese Labor Government took office, down from 88.8 per cent under the Coalition in the 12 months to June 2021.
“The latest data shows a total Medicare bulk billing rate of 77%, and 80.2% for non-referred GP appointments, in the 12 months to June this year,” Dr Webster said.
“Appallingly, these are the lowest bulk billing rates recorded since 2013 under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government. Tripling the incentive might make for good soundbites for the Minister, and slightly improve the economic bottom line for GPs, but it does not bring more doctors to the regions, nor adequately cover the burgeoning costs of running a practice. The fact is, more is needed to address the low bulk billing rates and workforce shortages Labor continue to preside over.”