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Minister, what about the facts on bulk billing?



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

59/2002 Wednesday 28 August 2002

MINISTER, WHAT ABOUT THE FACTS ON BULK BILLING?

With the release of the June Quarter bulk billing figures imminent, Health Minister Kay Patterson has been resorting to ignoring the facts in an attempt to obscure the miserable record of the Howard Government on bulk billing availability.

Yesterday the Minister told the Senate: “With all due respect, it is not a problem of our making”.

Perhaps the Minister should be reminded of some facts about bulk billing.

Fact 1: In every year from the commencement of Medicare in 1984 to the end of the former Labor government in 1996, bulk billing rates for GPs increased.

Fact 2: In every year since the election of the Howard Government, bulk billing rates have decreased.

Fact 3: Since 1996, bulk billing rates have decreased from a high of 80.6% just after the election of the Howard Government to a low of 74.5% today.

Fact 4: The average patient cost to see a GP who does not bulk bill has gone up by 41.8% under this Government from $8.32 in 1996 to $11.80 today.

Fact 5: State and Territory Health Ministers have advised Minister Patterson that public hospitals around Australia have seen an increase in the number of patients in triage categories 4 and 5 (least serious) as patients find it more difficult to see a bulk billing general practitioner.

Now that the Minister has recognised that bulk billing is a problem, when will the Howard Government take the further step and recognise that it is a problem of the Government’s own making over the last six and a half years?

Media Contact: Andrew Dempster (02) 6277 4108 or 0407 435 157