Seven in ten GPs report the requirement to bulk bill a large proportion of their patients was also a contributing factor (Figure 56). As discussed in section 2.3, for several months it was required by legislation that GPs bulk bill telehealth consultations provided to Commonwealth concession card holders, children <16 years old and patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Fifty per cent of GPs reported that the removal of the mandatory bulk-billing requirements for telehealth would improve the viability and sustainability of their practice.24 Free text responses highlight that GPs are happy to support their patients by bulk billing during a time when many are experiencing financial difficulties, but that longer-term practice sustainability cannot be supported without either increased rebates or charging fees to more patients.24
GPs strongly advocated that they should be able to use their own professional judgement and knowledge of each individual patient’s circumstances to decide when to bulk bill for telehealth. GPs also note that the systems are not in place to effectively and efficiently process payments for telehealth services.24
Other reasons cited for reduced income or revenue included reduced rental income; reduced work hours; changed employment or personal circumstances; more time spent on administrative tasks; and increased expenses in response to the demands of COVID-19, such as needing to pay practice staff for longer hours, cleaning expenses and sourcing PPE.5