Bulk Billing Rates Continue To Slide

Medicare bulk billing rates for visits to doctors have continued to decline.

The figures -- released by the Health Insurance Commission -- show bulk-billing for GP visits have fallen by 3.1 percentage points to 66.5 per cent in the December quarter, compared to the same time in the previous year.

The Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has stressed his belief that the bulk billing system is still working, and he's confident healthcare reforms will help address the downward trend.

"Two out of three visits to the GP continue to be bulk billed. 98 per cent of doctors continue to bulk bill some or all of their patients. The Government is committed to bulk billing, that's why we brought in the $5 bulk billing incentive, and I think that over time you will certainly see that having an impact on bulk billing rates."

Mr Abbott says the decline only strengthens the case for the federal government's proposed $5 bulk-billing incentive and safety net under its so-called "Medicare Plus" plan.

The government has so far been unable to reach a compromise with the four independent senators or the Australian Democrats to get legislation to introduce the plan through parliament.

Labor's Health Spokesperson JULIA GILLARD says the latest bulk billing figures are a good reason for the legislation to be rejected.

"We would urge the Democrats and the Independents to hold firm. Australians want a universal Medicare system, not Tony Abbott's means tested Medicare and not Medicare with the heart ripped out of it. And we're seeing the heart ripped out further with these statistics."
Source SBS

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