The proportion of General Practitioners bulk billing all patients nationwide has halved in the past 12 months under Labor’s watch.
Bulk billing rates by GPs for all patients fell to just 12 per cent in 2023 according to RACGP statistics in a drastic failure of Labor Government policy, stated Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health Anne Webster.
“Health Minister, Mark Butler brags about his Government’s tripling of the Medicare Bulk Billing Incentive, but that is merely hot air. The incentive only affects consults for pensioners, concession card holders and children – it does not change the fact bulk billing rates are continuing to fall under Labor,” Dr Webster said.
“In fact they are now at the lowest since the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government years despite being at record highs when the Coalition left Government.
“All this is compounded in regional Australia where patients struggle to access a doctor – thanks to Labor bleeding the regions of doctors through the expansion of the Distribution Priority Areas which funnelled International Medical Graduates into peri-urban settings.”
On top of this, Dr Webster said regulatory and compliance burden were contributing to GPs leaving the medical practice, compounded by State Governments introducing a retrospective payroll tax.
“GPs are getting tired, overworked and simply burnt out – of the 39,000 GPs working in Australia currently almost three in 10 intend to retire in the next five years – they have had enough,” Dr Webster said.
“State Labor Governments enforcing a payroll tax which retrospectively hits GPs for the past five years is just another straw to break the camel’s back.”
Making matters even worse, the number of medical graduates training has plunged, with more than 225 fewer medical graduates signing up to GP training in 2022 with one in three GPs now trained overseas.
“Why would a young medical graduate want to be a GP under the current policy settings?” Dr Webster said. “We need change and that starts with proper investment in primary care – not lip service.”
According to the RACGP, almost 9 in 10 Australians visit a GP each year. In 2022 more than 179 million health services were provided by GPs and on average patients received 7.9 episodes of care from their GP throughout the year.
“When you consider General Practice represents only 6.5 per cent of total Government health spending, it is ridiculous.” Dr Webster said.
“Government spending on an equivalent visit to the GP is $80 compared to an Emergency Department visit for the same illness at over $600. The fact is, primary healthcare deserves more funding because it keeps people out of hospital. Labor needs to step up and face this great inequity and looming disaster.”