Bulk Billing and Medicine Reimbursement
Medicare figures over the past decade show a gradual trend towards patients having to bear a greater portion of their medical costs.
Gap costs for a standard visit to a general practitioner have risen by more than $6 to $25 where the GP does not bulk bill Medicare. About 80 per cent of GP visits are bulk billed, meaning the patient does not pay, but the rate of bulk billing is well under 50 per cent for specialists like obstetricians where the average out-of-pocket cost has risen by more than $40 to $115.
Gap costs are a critical aspect of the affordability of and access to health services in Australia and the decline in service affordability is having a negative impact on Australian patients’ overall health and wellbeing.
Toward the end of the 1990s, Australian patients paid, on average, $415.40 in medical fees a year and received benefits of $352.38 from Medicare. By 2009, however, this gap had widened. Total medical fees for individual patients doubled to $824.46, while benefits lagged behind, reaching only $652.32.
The rise of medical fees without a commensurate rise in benefits helps explain the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ finding that one in ten Australian patients referred to a specialist delays seeking the consultation because of the cost.
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