BUDGET 2021

Changes will make GP bulk billing in the bush more widespread

Changes will make GP bulk billing in the bush more widespread

BULK billing in the bush will get a $65 million boost in the budget, which will see the practise become much more widespread in regional Australia.

The rural bulk billing incentive will increase between 10 to 40 per cent, with the more remote the area, the greater the payment general practitioners will receive per consultation.

Rural Doctors of Australia Association president John Hall said the investment was a "game changer" for rural and remote primary care.

"For the first time in Medicare we are seeing government recognise that there are on-the-ground differences between delivering General Practice care in regional, rural, and remote areas, compared to larger regional and metropolitan cities," Dr Hall said.

Bulk-billing doctors outside metropolitan areas currently receive 150pc of the base bulk billing incentive.

From January 2022, that will increase to 160pc for large and medium rural locations, 170pc for small rural locations, 180pc for rural locations and 190pc for very remote locations.

This means doctors practicing in rural and remote areas will be able to receive an incentive payment of up to $12.35 per consultation.

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Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said more than 12,000 rural and remote GPs would be eligible for the higher bulk billing incentive.

"Australians in rural and remote areas have poorer access to and use of health services, compared to people living in metropolitan areas," Mr Coulton said.

"The new Rural Bulk Billing Incentive will support those GPs providing services to people in greatest need and who have the lowest propensity to pay for healthcare."

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the higher bulk billing incentives for rural and remote medical practices would reduce out of pocket costs to patients.

"While the average bulk billing rate is more than 80 per cent across many regional, rural and remote areas, there are still more GPs in these areas who could offer bulk billing for their patients," Mr Hunt said.

Dr Hall wants to see the "very important shift" in policy reflected in all new and reviewed government programs, which should be put under the "rural rural test".

"Incentives designed to support doctors, practices and patients in small rural towns should not be available to the same level in large regional cities like Cairns, and some state capitals like Hobart, as many currently are," Dr Hall said.

"Rural incentives and workforce programs must target heartland rural communities to better support local health services and boost access to healthcare in these locations, not be spread so wide they become meaningless."

This story Changes will make GP bulk billing in the bush more widespread first appeared on Farm Online.