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Labor's bulk billing boost for outer metropolitan areas.

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Stephen Smith MP

Member for Perth

Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

David Cox MP

Member for Kingston Shadow Assistant Treasurer

30/2003 Tuesday 20 May 2003


Labor’s plan to save Medicare and restore bulk billing will boost the rate of bulk billing in those outer metropolitan areas which have been hardest hit by the Government’s neglect of Medicare and bulk billing.

Outer metropolitan areas hard hit by doctor shortages have seen some of the greatest declines in bulk billing under the Howard Government. The Government’s so-called “Fairer Medicare” package fails to recognise the sharp decline in bulk billing in outer metropolitan areas.

Today Mr Smith and Mr Cox met with general practitioners in the suburb of Morphett Vale in Mr Cox’s outer metropolitan Adelaide electorate of Kingston.

There is a clear contrast between Labor and the Government on this issue. Labor’s plan offers GPs in outer metropolitan areas an incentive payment of $15,000 for bulk billing more than 75% of their patients.

But the Howard Government’s plan treats GPs in outer metropolitan areas no differently to those in inner city locations. All the Government is offering outer metropolitan GPs is a payment of $3,500 in return for agreeing to bulk bill all of their concession card holders, and nobody else.

The Government’s so-called “Fairer Medicare” package will drive bulk billing even lower because doctors will be given financial incentives to bulk bill concession cardholders but given the green light to charge higher fees for people who don’t have concession cards.

Australian families with two kids who earn more than $32,300 a year are not eligible for a concession card. For them, bulk billing will end and when they visit their GP, bit by bit, they’ll be asked to pay more.

Lifting the patient rebate and introducing financial incentives for bulk billing will help to stem the current dramatic decline in bulk billing and act to make bulk billing available to more Australian families.

Under John Howard, bulk billing by GPs has declined by more than 12 percentage points from a high in 1996 of 80.6% to 68.5% today.

At the same time, the average cost of seeing a doctor who doesn’t bulk bill has increased by more than 55% from $8.32 in 1996 to $13.05 today.

Labor’s $1.9 billion plan for Medicare will restore bulk billing by: • immediately lifting the Medicare patient rebate for all bulk billed consultations to 95 percent of the scheduled fe e - an average increase of $3.35 per consultation; • subsequently lifting the Medicare patient rebate for all bulk billed consultations to 100

percent of the scheduled fee - an average increase of $5.00 per consultation. • offering doctors powerful financial incentives of up to $22,500 to meet bulk billing targets which are realistic and achievable; and • providing for more GPs in the areas that need them and more nurses to assist GPs in

their work.

These measures are the first step towards Labor’s objective of lifting the average national rate of bulk billing back to 80% or more.

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