By Dr Craig Hookham
Do you know what happens when a GP chooses to bulk bill the consultation instead of privately charging you?
Most people assume the GP ends up with the same fee but instead it’s just paid to them directly by Medicare. This is not correct. A ‘bulk bill’ is a term to describe the situation where the GP elects not to accept any up front payment from the patient and instead receives only the Medicare rebate for the service provided. Essentially this means that the GP has chosen to reduce the value of their consultation for the better of the patient. Bulk Billing a patient is a disadvantage to the GP and the clinic.
So essentially, instead of receiving the $85 for the consultation, which is considered to be a fair estimate of the value of the GPs speciality service provided, the GP takes a 54% pay cut when they choose to bulk bill you. Do you think any other speciality or trade would take such a significant percentage cut to provide you a service? Why is the Medicare rebate so low? The Medicare rebate was frozen by the Government in 2013. It was supposed to be temporary and has only slowly been lifted since 2019/2020. This means that GPs are reimbursed the same for delivering health services today as they were in 2014. GP clinics are paying more for their practices, staff, medical products, utilities and just about anything else that goes into running a medical service. But the amount paid remains static. What other speciality has not had a pay rise since 2014?
It has now got to the point where bulk billing will not sustain a Medical Practice and Privately charging is the way forward until the Medicare rebate is lifted significantly to its true value. As GPs – if the Medicare rebate fairly matched the value of our service – we would love to bulk bill everyone. We would never want to cause financial hardship for our patients. However, unfortunately, the Government would not agree with this statement.