General practitioners will be incentivised to bulk bill more of their patients through a tripling of the fee they receive for bulk billing, at a cost to the budget of $3.5 billion over five years.
This comes as some Compare the Market research revealed nearly 1 in 5 Aussies have delayed a GP visit in the last three months, due to rising cost of living pressures.
Within the past three months, Australians have also delayed ‘entertainment’ like eating out and going to the movies (43.9 per cent), booking a holiday (41.8 per cent), hair appointments (30.9 per cent) and car services (30.4 per cent).
Compare the Market’s Chris Ford said the cost-of-living crunch is undoubtedly hitting many households hard.
“While hair appointments and holiday plans can be put on hold, healthcare isn’t something Australians should have to compromise on,” Mr Ford said.
“The budget increase is welcome news to some, but others may not think it’s enough of an incentive to revive the GP clinics that have phased out bulk billing.
Health Minister Mark Butler described the move as the largest increase to the bulk-billing incentive in the 40-year history of Medicare.
The bulk-billing incentive will benefit eligible people aged under 16, pensioners, and Commonwealth concession card holders.
“Not every GP may start bulk billing again because of this as some have been saying they are struggling to keep up the cost of running a practice,” Mr Ford said.
“Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet that’s going to fix this issue anytime soon.
“Which is scary to think, considering almost a fifth of Australians are foregoing vital GP visits because they simply can’t afford it. Healthcare is paramount – no Australian should have to put off their GP check-up because they can’t afford it.
“If people are skipping the GP, then it may be an even sadder story when it comes to visiting a specialist or putting off a potential operation.
“If your specialist charges more than the Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee, you may have to pay out-of-pocket costs. Your out-of-pocket cost is the difference between the amount charged, and the combined amount paid by Medicare and, if you have health insurance, your insurer.
“But depending on your level of cover, your insurer might cover some or all of the hospital charges such as accommodation, theatre, or medical device fees.
“Deciding on the right level of cover is crucial, it could mean the difference between being covered or leaving yourself out of pocket.
“While having lower premiums is tempting, cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better – It’s important to weigh up the options and make a decision that suits your personal needs.
“Compare the Market has made researching private health insurance easy. You can choose to take out hospital cover alone, or consider an extras only policy, but many opt for a combined hospital and extras policies for full range of cover”.