Older Australians and young people will pocket more cash after a doctor’s visit after a major boost to the bulk-billing incentive for GPs kicked in on Wednesday.
Starting November 1, GPs will receive triple the incentive to bulk bill concession card holders and pensioners for most standard consultations. Bulk-billing rates for a standard consult in a metro area will rise from $6.85 to $20.65 and from $13.15 to $39.65 for very remote practices.
Doctors’ groups hailed the move and said it will provide cost-of-living relief for patients who need it most, but flagged that more work to fix the health system needed to be done.
“This significant investment, equalling $3.5 billion over five years, is the starting point for improving the sustainability of general practice in Australia,” Australian Medical Association President Steve Robson said.
“We will continue working with the government on developing new programs and initiatives that strengthen primary care and ensure GP-led care is affordable and accessible for all patients.”
The tripling of the bulk-billing incentive payment will apply to all face-to-face and telehealth GP services running between six and 20 minutes.
It will also apply to other face-to-face consults and longer appointments where a patient is registered with their GP practice through the new MyMedicare scheme.
The move was announced in Labor’s federal budget, with $3.5bn committed over five years in a bid to repair the effects of Covid-19 on primary health services and ease pressure on emergency wards and residential aged care homes.
Health Minister Mark Butler called the plan a ‘game-changer.’
“Today is the biggest investment in Medicare for decades,” he said on Wednesday.
“The tripling of the bulk billing incentive is biggest one, of course. But we're delivering the biggest increase in rebates since Paul Keating was Prime Minister.
“We've got a new shingles vaccine program, the most comprehensive program for over 65-year-olds on the planet. That starts today as well. We promised at the last election to strengthen Medicare and today we’re delivering on that promise.”