Case study: practice membership fee
If your patients rely on bulk billing, consider how you can continue to offer this and recuperate costs without losing eligibility for the bulk billing incentive.
You can adapt your billing models to suit you and your patients. If you predominantly bulk bill some or all of your patients, consider directly charging them for a service (at least) once, which allows you to charge an additional annual ‘practice membership fee’ as part of that transaction.
Practices that provide services eligible for a bulk billing incentive may be hesitant to charge patients an out-of-pocket cost because it means the practice forfeits the incentive payment. As a result, the practice would need to charge patients a higher out-of-pocket fee to make up for the loss of the incentive. However, an annual ‘practice membership fee’ may suit the GPs, the practice and their patients.
It could work like this: The practice raises an account for each patient for what would otherwise be that patient’s first bulk billed consultation of the financial year. After that, billing of any particular patient is at the GP’s discretion. The annual fee allows the GP or practice to recuperate the costs associated with providing high quality services, and all subsequent bulk billed services continue to attract the bulk billing incentive.
Example provided by Dr Emil Djakic, GP and Practice Owner in Ulverstone Tasmania.