Doc’s discount dilemma as Medicare gap widens
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Doc’s discount dilemma as Medicare gap widens

Less than 25 per cent of GPs in the City of Logan bulk bill all clients regardless of concessions, according to new data.

The data comes from healthcare directory Cleanbill’s latest pricing analysis report, which found only 17.6 per cent of the state’s GPs bulk bill all clients – costing Queenslanders an average of $41.27 per consult.

In Logan, the average out-of-pocket cost is $31.17 per consult – one of the cheapest in the state.

This is paid on top of the $41.40 Medicare rebate already provided for a standard, 15-minute consultation.

In Logan, there are 20 bulk billing clinics in the suburbs surrounding Beenleigh, Kingston, Woodridge, Shailer Park, and Waterford West.

But, according to Cleanbill’s data, bulk billing GPs in the city’s growth corridor are scarce.

There are only three bulk-billing GPs in the large part of Logan between and west of Crestmead in the north, and west of Mount Warren Park in the south.

The closest bulk-billing GP for residents in or near Jimboomba who aren’t concession card holders is Tamborine Village Medical in Tamborine.

For residents further north – near Greenbank, New Beith or Munruben – the closest bulk-billing GP is Boronia Park Medical Centre in Boronia Heights.

Cleanbill founder James Gillespie said the Medicare rebate GPs received from the government – currently $41.40 – would need to be increased for there to be more bulk billing clinics.

“When it comes to bulk billing, you’re really looking at whether a GP clinic, in light of its economic circumstances, feels that it can operate on the money provided by Medicare alone,” Mr Gillespi said.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Queensland chair, Dr Cath Hester, said there was likely more bulk-billing available to Logan residents than what Cleanbill reported.

“It’s very true that less practices are bulk billing all clients now, because Medicare rebates are not covering the cost of general practice care at the moment, but I also think the Cleanbill report gives you a negative skew,” Dr Hester said.

“General practices still significantly bulk bill kids and healthcare card holders, or at least have reduced fees.”

She said clinics operated just the same as other small businesses, meaning they all had different operational costs and therefore charged different amounts.

“Some practices give you very basic, very quick consults where you might not be able to choose your GP or what time you see your GP,” Dr Hester said.

“These practices might not employ as many reception staff or nursing staff, and that way they can keep their costs down.”

“But other general practices will run it a different way, with nursing staff, admin staff, longer consultations, and with a GP of your choice.

“In those situations you’re likely to find the Medicare rebate just doesn’t cover the cost of that service.”

She said GPs were “acutely aware of the cost-of-living pressures” patients were feeling.

“GPs would be able to bulk bill more consults if the Medicare rebate was set at an appropriate amount,” she said.

“At the moment we’re seeing an all-time record gap between what the Medicare rebate is and what the Australian Medical Association suggested price is.

“GPs working in Logan, which we know suffers from a great deal of socio-economic disadvantage, have worked really hard, extended themselves, and sacrificed a lot of their personal income so they can bulk bill patients and provide services to people.

“But we can’t keep doing that – businesses just won’t survive.”

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