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Lift in rate of bulk billing needed.



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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

56/2002 Friday 16 August 2002

LIFT IN RATE OF BULK BILLING NEEDED

I reject the suggestion by AMA President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, that Labor does not appreciate the problems faced by doctors which prevent them from offering bulk billing.

Yesterday I said that many GPs have a legitimate complaint that the financial burdens and constraints placed on them by the Federal Government, by refusing to contemplate any increases in the Medical Benefits Rebate, see them unable to operate their businesses in any financially viable way without charging a co-payment.

Last month I said that rising medical indemnity insurance premiums could be the straw that breaks the back of bulk billing. This theme has since been taken up by others.

Bulk billing is in serious decline and there is a grave risk that, when the June quarter figures are released shortly, they will show a further deterioration.

Yesterday I suggested one possibility for improving bulk billing would be to offer targeted incentives to general practitioners who operate in areas where bulk billing is in decline.

The best way to do this may not necessarily be an across-the-board increase in the Medical Benefits Schedule or through changes to the Practice Incentive Payments system.

We shouldn’t get locked into old ways of thinking. We need to develop new and creative ways of lifting bulk-billing throughout the country.

The unavailability of bulk-billing for Australians under financial pressure threatens the universality of Medicare and it is something which Labor is giving the highest priority to addressing through our current policy review process.

Media Contact: Andrew Dempster 0407 435 157