With the media sensationalising bulk billing rates in recent weeks, what is the real bulk-billing rate in Australia, and what contributes to trends in the bulk billing rate?
Since the introduction of Medicare in 1984, bulk billed non-referred attendances to GPs have increased from 34.3% to a staggering 83.7%. In the last financial year alone, bulk billing rates increased by 0.7%. So what has caused this rise in bulk billing?
While experts say there is no way of pinpointing the exact reason of the rise, they indicate that in an aging population, more pensioners and patients with chronic diseases rely on the MBS to manage the costs associated with ongoing medical conditions. Dr Frank Jones, President of the RACGP, reported that an expanded scope of bulk billing leads to chronic conditions consuming as much as 41% of bulk-billed services.
So how much are GPs getting from these patients? From October 2013 to May 2016, care plans addressing chronic diseases such as asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes had a billed total of $1.83B. Of this, $1.81B was made up of GP Management Plans (item 721),Team Care Arrangements (item 723) and Reviews of either a GPMP or TCA (item 732). These items are particularly valuable to GPs, attracting benefits up to $144.25 per patient over a 12 month period.
According to statistics released in 2016, very remote areas of Australia rely on Medicare the most, with 87.8% of non-referred attendances to a GPs being bulk-billed. These areas have also recorded the highest average MBS Patient Contribution ($) per Service for Out of Hospital and Patient Billed Services from 2006-07 to 2015-16. The introduction of bulk billing large clinics in major growth corridors around Australia has prompted more families to visit a bulk-billed doctor that is in close proximity. Many of these centres are treating up to 400 patients per day. The opening of these clinics also means that more middle and outer metropolitan areas of Australia have access to bulk billing.
Should GPs embrace bulk-billing?
In the bulk billing environment, driven by strong patient demand, it is becoming easier for doctors to build a patient base almost instantly, whereas colleagues in mixed and private billing practices report it could typically take several months to build a solid patient base.
With the use of best practice in bulk billing, especially with the care plans available for chronic disease management, earnings can meet or exceed those achieved in private billing practices.
Bulk Billing is becoming more and more popular with the patients of Australia. However, the stigma around working in Bulk billing still exists amongst some groups of practitioners. In summary, working in a bulk billing practice involves:
- Excellent earning potential
- More varied and interesting medicine
- Easily building up a strong patient base
- And doesn’t mean you have to work in a low socio-economic suburb!
If you want to know more about bulk billing opportunities, contact one of our experienced consultants today!
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