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December quarter bulk-billing figures.

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Media Release

The Hon Tony Abbott MHR Minister for Health and Ageing

13 February 2004 ABB010/04

December quarter bulk-billing figures

In the December quarter of 2003, 66.5 per cent of GP consultations were bulk-billed. This compares to 67.4 per cent for the September quarter and 67.7 per cent for the calendar year.

Two out of three GP visits are bulk-billed. Over 98 per cent of doctors who see more than 1000 patients annually, bulk-bill some or all of them.

On 1 February, the MedicarePlus bulk-billing incentive came into operation. From 1 February, each bulk-billed GP consultation with a concession card holder or child under 16 is eligible for an additional $5 rebate. This gives every doctor more incentive to bulk-bill and gives the Australian people confidence that bulk-billing will continue to be available to people who need it. The average doctor’s Medicare income will rise by more than $15,000 thanks to this incentive.

The Government is spending $2.4 billion on its MedicarePlus package to strengthen and protect Medicare. The Government spent a total of $8.25 billion on Medicare rebates in 2003, up 2.8 per cent or $223 million compared to 2002.

GP expenses comprise less than 5 per cent of the “gap” payments made by people who have so far this year incurred more than $500 in out-of-pocket medical benefits schedule charges but many patients routinely face significant gap payments for services such as MRI and CT scans, ultra-sounds, radiation therapy and specialist visits. These services have never been widely bulk-billed. The MedicarePlus safety net will benefit about 200,000 individuals and families once it is put in place - but it will give all 20 million Australians the security of knowing they are covered in the event of big doctors’ bills.

The Australian Government has spent $2.074 billion on Medicare payments over the past three months, or $104 for every Australian. This is an increase of 4.3 percent, or $84.7 million compared to the same period last year.

The most recent electorate-by-electorate data is available at National bulk-billing data is released quarterly. Electorate figures will be released annually.

For more information call Kate Jordan on 0417 425 227