The Medicare freeze on top of decades of devaluing the Medicare rebate means that from July 1 2016 we will not be able to bulk-bill as many patients as we currently do and remain open as a service let alone maintain the level of care that we currently provide.
We are doing our best to continue to provide bulk-billed healthcare for those who really need it, but we are now in no other position than to limit this practice.
Honestly, we are changing our fee structure through necessity, not preference.
Publicly funded healthcare is a promise that was made by the Government and the Government has devalued this for years expecting doctors to pick up the slack. The Medicare freeze, which started in 2014 and will now continue until at least 2020, has made the difference between the rebate and the market rate of a GP consult too great.
Because of this as of 1st July we will no longer routinely bulk-bill appointments.
We would like to reassure you that all of our GPs will be exceptionally mindful of their patients’ ability to pay for their appointments. We really don’t want a situation where a patient doesn’t attend through affordability or compromises the quality of their care by going to a bulk-billing surgery where waits are long and continuity of care is rare.
If you have to come in frequently or you’re bringing a stack of kids in at once, likelihood is that some of those appointments will be bulk-billed or charged at a reduced fee and children will be seen at a discounted rate.
We understand that some of our patients may choose to go to a bulk-billing surgery instead, but please don’t compromise your health and a good GP/patient relationship for the sake of $20 (children and pensioners). If this really is a barrier for you, please speak to your GP. If we can help, we really do want to.
For more information we have listed the most frequently asked questions specific to the impact of the Medicare freeze on our patients below.
Question: I’m eligible for the reduced concession rate, but what if I can’t afford the $20 payment?
Answer: If you’ve been regularly bulk billed in the past, your first appointment after this change in fees will be bulk billed so you have a chance to discuss your situation with your GP. In this way we are making sure that all of our patients know what to expect into the future.
Question: I’m eligible for the reduced concession rate, but what if I can afford the $20 payment but really don’t want to spend money on my GP appointments?
Answer: Some practices will continue to bulk-bill, but it’s unlikely that any aside from the big corporates will be able to manage this. Bulk-billed services might not cost you $20 but they will cost you time with big waits in a waiting room full of sick people and will cost you continuity of care. Clearly, it’s your choice, but please don’t compromise a good GP/Patient relationship for the sake of $20 now and then. $20 is not a lot to pay for something as important as your health and as valuable as your GPs advice.
Question: You’re in the middle of a big extension, are you now charging to pay for this?
Answer: No.For us to continue offering the quality service that we do we had to increase turnover. We could only do this 2 ways:
- Shorter appointments churning through more patients every day as some practices do.
- Increase the number of doctors we offer.
We have always been about quality care and a massively important part to this is making sure that patients can spend the time they need to with their GP and that their GP is able to carry out their very important and complex job with as little added stress as possible. So realistically, pushing our GPs to work faster was never an option. Plus, the practice really needed some important things like inside toilets for patients, a compliant disabled entrance ramp and an emergency exit that isn’t a back window!
Questions: Why do I need to speak with my GP?
Answer: We tried to form a practice policy around private billing but we found that there was no such thing as ‘1 size fits all’. Our patients’ situations vary and we need flexibility in order to serve them best. In the end we figured that GPs and patients are best served making these decisions together and this is a conversation that should happen in the privacy and trust of the GP/Patient relationship.
All of our GPs entered the profession because they want to help people, so as this is their primary motivation. We, and you, can rely on our GPs to be discrete, compassionate, fair and considerate when making these decisions; and we and the GPs can rely on the honesty of our patients not to take advantage of their better natures.