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Minister's bulk-billing defence beggars belief.



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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

108/2002 Monday 2 December 2002

MINISTER’S BULK-BILLING DEFENCE BEGGARS BELIEF

With Health Minister Kay Patterson unable to defend the catastrophic decline in bulk-billing under the Howard Government in the Senate, her representative in the House of Representatives the Minister for Ageing and Seniors, Kevin Andrews, produced a bizarre display in the House today in Question Time.

Defending the 9.4% decline in GP bulk-billing since the election of the Howard Government, Minister Andrews appeared to be in a state of confusion - referring to, but then refusing Labor’s request to produce a graph that purported to show the bulk-billing rates under successive Governments, including rates under Labor.

Minister Andrews needs a history lesson.

Labor built Medicare in 1984.

Before Medicare, there was no such thing as bulk-billing. During the Fraser years, the rate of bulk-billing was zero!

When Labor introduced Medicare in 1984, the percentage of bulk-billing by GPs leapt from zero to the low fifties.

Over time, and in part as doctors came to appreciate patients’ support for practices that provided bulk-billing services, the proportion of bulk-billed GP services increased steadily to a high of 80.6% in 1996.

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. But in every year since the election of the Howard Government, bulk-billing rates have decreased. We have now recently witnessed the second consecutive largest annual decline in GP bulk-billing.

The attached graphs show the decline in GP bulk-billing to the September Quarter 2002 under the Howard Government and the respective performances over the past decade.

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 71.2% today. And the average patient cost to see a GP who does not bulk-bill has gone up by more than 50% under this Government from $8.32 in 1996 to $12.57 today.

Labor built Medicare and bulk-billing and only Labor is committed to Medicare and to restoring bulk-billing. It is Labor’s highest priority in health.

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

B u lk -B illin g u n d e r H o w a r d

7 0 .0

7 2 .0

7 4 .0

7 6 .0

7 8 .0

8 0 .0

8 2 .0

D E C M A R J U N S E P D E C M A R J U N S E P D E C M A R J U N S E P D E C M A R J U N S E P D E C M A R J U N S E P D E C M A R J U N S E P

1 9 9 7 1 9 9 8 1 9 9 9 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 2

GP bulk-billing: up under Labor, down under Howard

66.0

68.0

70.0

72.0

74.0

76.0

78.0

80.0

82.0

1991/1992

1992/1993

1993/1994

1994/1995

1995/1996

1996/1997

1997/1998

1998/1999

1999/2000

2000/2001

2001/2002

Sep-02

Rate of GP bulk billing