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Monday, 20 August 2001
Page: 29796


Mr Latham asked the Minister for Health and Aged Care, upon notice, on 7 December 2000:

(1) For each broad type of service categorised in the Medicare statistics, what percentage of services is (a) direct billed and (b) billed at or below Medicare Schedule fees.

(2) What do the figures referred to in part (1) indicate about the (a) supply of specialist services, (b) inflation of specialists' incomes and (c) extent of competition among the various specialist groups.


Dr Wooldridge (Minister for Health and Aged Care) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Details of the percentage of services that were bulk billed, by broad type of service in 1999-00, are available on the Health Insurance Commission web site at www.hic.gov.au. Details of the percentage of services that were billed at or below Medicare Schedule fees, by broad type of service in 1999-00, are as follows:

Broad Type of Service Group

% Billed at or Below Schedule Fees

Unreferred Attendances—

GP/VR

81.9

Enhanced Primary Care

99.7

Other

87.8

Total

82.6

Specialist Attendances

53.5

Obstetrics

45.3

Anaesthetics

28.9

Pathology—

Patient Episode Initiation

91.6

Tests

93.0

Total

92.5

Diagnostic Imaging

74.9

Operations

64.4

Assistance at Operations

42.1

Optometry

99.2

Radiotherapy & Therapeutic Nuclear Medicine

79.7

Other

74.2

Total

81.2

(2) It is difficult to draw any conclusions about specialist supply; inflation of specialists' incomes; and extent of specialist competition from the data in part (1).

For example, while it is often claimed that a greater supply of doctors results in increased bulk billing, the ACT has a relatively high supply of GPs and a relatively low rate of bulk billing for GP services.

Similarly, the data in part (1) prima facie suggest a difference in supply in doctors conducting operations and doctors assisting at operations that does not exist.