In the May Budget incentives were increased for bulk billing pensioners, concession card holders and children under 16yo (starting November). This has made it possible for us to continue our current policy which is to bulk bill these groups for standard consultations. Prior to this increase, the rebates offered had fallen to approximately half of what it costs to provide patients with proper GP care. The situation will be reviewed annually and routine bulk billing for concessional patients may yet prove to be unsustainable, even with the increased incentives.
We are unaware of precisely all the item numbers which will attract this incentive, though standard consultations certainly will. However, like many things in politics, some of the devil is in the detail- the vast majority of the different item numbers available to GPs will not be ‘incentivised’, and some item numbers have been flagged to be quietly removed. There was little to no movement on increasing the medicare rebate amounts; these have been estimated to have halved in real terms over the past 20 years and belie (both sides of) government saying that they have been adequately funding general practice.
We hope that this clarifies our position as it stands at present. Our aim is to always provide the very best of care to our patient base, but that is proving difficult with an over-reliance on medicare alone. The tripling of the incentive will undoubtedly help but it is not the ‘saviour’ of medicare some press are making it out to be.