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Bulkbilling incentives won't wash.



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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/766 MONDAY 16 AUGUST 2004

SENATOR LYN ALLISON

AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS HEALTH SPOKESPERSON

BULKBILLING INCENTIVES WON’T WASH

The Australian Democrats welcomed the acknowledgement by Government that many metro and regional areas have low rates of bulk billing and serious doctor shortages but said this was already known when MedicarePlus was announced.

Senator Lyn Allison, Democrats Health spokesperson said these problems will not be solved by an extra $2.50 incentive. "The only way to increase bulk billing is to set targets and reward doctors for all consultations bulk billed."

"The Democrats call on the Government to move to a geographically-based Medicare provider number system, otherwise doctors will continue to work in already over-serviced areas. The Government also needs to be more innovative in delivering GP services to those areas currently without doctors.

"Our plea for funding GPs in community health centres, better use of allied health services under Medicare, Medicare coverage of nurse-practitioners, funded after hours services and walk-in-walk out clinics has been ignored by the Howard Government in favour of piecemeal approaches that undermine Medicare.

"Disguising this announcement as a quick-fix to boost bulk billing rates when the doctors it targets are suspiciously in marginal seats is a disgrace."

Senator Allison said higher rebates for people in marginal seats was an election ploy and called on the Government to release the monthly electorate-by-electorate figures on bulk billing which it has hidden since the changes to Medicare were passed.

"Behind closed doors decision-making is not acceptable, particularly in the lead up to an election," Senator Allison concluded.

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