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Friday, 9 December 1983
Page: 3600

Senator SIBRAA —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that under the present health care arrangements doctors who bulk bill have experienced in some cases quite considerable delays in receiving payment from the Commonwealth? How will this problem be addressed under Medicare? Will the Minister spell out how doctors will be paid under the new bulk billing arrangements?

Senator GRIMES —Under the present arrangements doctors have experienced difficulties with bulk billing. Primarily this arises out of the fact that bulk billing arrangements at the moment involve fairly complicated steps. In the case of those with health care cards and pensioner health benefit cards the numbers must be matched not only by the Department of Health but also by the Department of Social Security. This involves considerable delays. Under Medicare everyone will have a Medicare card and number and will qualify for the Medicare rebate. As a result, those doctors who bulk bill will be able to have their bulk billing claims processed very quickly because there is no necessity for matching, no necessity to go to the Department of Social Security, for instance, to work out who is eligible and who is not or whether a person is still eligible. Therefore, under these arrangements the processing time will be reduced considerably. The difficulties under the existing system did create problems. The Government recognised this and the Department in recent times has overcome these problems so that now processing times and delays are down to a fortnight or a bit more. Under Medicare the Health Insurance Commission hopes to get the processing time down to five days. Universal coverage will be of great advantage to doctors who bulk bill. As has happened in similar systems overseas, I believe that as the years go by a greater percentage of doctors will take advantage of bulk billing. It will be of advantage to not only themselves but also their patients.