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Media release

One third of Australians paying out of pocket to see their GP under Medicare freeze

6 December 2016

Department of Health figures released today prove that only 64.7% of patients were fully bulk-billed for all of their GP services in 2015-16, according to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

Contrary to the Federal Government’s ongoing claims that the bulk billing rate is at 83.7%, today’s figures show that more than a third of Australians have paid out of pocket expenses to see their GP in the last year.

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said bulk billing numbers have been subject to political spin for too long.

“What matters to our patients is whether or not they can afford a co-payment for the clinical care of themselves and their families.

“We know that financially vulnerable patients will delay seeing their GP if they are faced with increased out of pocket expenses, and they will eventually call an ambulance or present to emergency departments at a much greater cost to the taxpayer.

“That is why the RACGP has been calling for greater investment and appropriate funding of general practice,” he said.

Dr Seidel said the figures released today vindicate what the RACGP has been saying for more than a year.

“The government’s oft-quoted figure of 83.7% has been used to justify the ongoing freeze on patient Medicare rebates, however the RACGP has maintained that this is not truly reflective of bulk billing rates.

“For the first time we now have access to data regarding how many general practice patients – as opposed to services – are bulk billed every year.

“We also know that out of pocket costs increased by more than five times the rate of inflation last financial year, and that for the first time since 2010 the proportion of the population accessing GP services went down.

“Australians are entitled to an equitable and accessible health care system, and appropriately funded primary health care is absolutely fundamental to this,” he said.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

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