‘We need serious reform’: Doctors warn bulk-billing is on the chopping block

Apr 22, 2022
Doctors call for urgent reform to medicare. Source: Getty

Doctors and health professionals say Medicare funding needs urgent reform to continue offering Australians bulk-billed services.

The Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) President Dr Omar Khorshid has called for Medicare to be “modernised” to keep healthcare services affordable for patients, preventing doctors from bearing “the brunt” of funding cuts.

“Doctors working in general practice have been forced time and time again to wear the brunt of these real cuts to Medicare,” Dr Khorshid said.

“GPs have not received the support they deserve or need from successive Governments. The health care needs of patients have become much more complex as the population has aged yet Medicare is stuck in the 1980s.

“We need serious reform to put general practice on a more sustainable footing, capable of delivering the type of care that many patients now need.”

Dr Khorshid said the AMA has proposed changes to Medicare that ensure fresh updates to Australia’s healthcare system to suit the changing needs of patients.

“Our healthcare needs have also changed. We are an older society, with more chronic diseases and more complex healthcare requirements. Now more than ever, patients need to be able to spend time with their GP to ensure their health conditions are properly assessed and treated,” he said.

“We’ve seen poll after poll indicate that health is a top priority for voters, and the pandemic has shown us that health is the best investment that Governments can make.”

Royal Australian College of GPs president Dr Karen Price told news.com.au that if change doesn’t happen soon, Australia will end up with a “two-tier health system”.

“The Medicare rebate has not kept pace with the costs of running a practice in terms of staffing costs, equipment and so forth,” Dr Price said.

“Up until now, many of us have been subsidising the gap ourselves, particularly for vulnerable patients.”

Dr Price says Medicare only pays $39.10 for a 20-minute consultation fee and that without reform, vulnerable patients who need long-term care will be left behind.

“Vulnerable patients, in particular, have often long and complex medical conditions, often multiple medical conditions,” she said.

“The Medicare rebate is really only designed for acute, high-volume care, so detailed holistic care is not well supported by Medicare.”

The current Medicare funding situation has already seen many doctors opt to work in hospitals or open private practices instead of general practice.

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