A radical proposal has been put forward to address the appalling decline in bulk billing for the most needy patients across Australia.
Reported in The Australian, Top health policy experts have put forward a radical plan to guarantee access to bulk billing for the neediest patients, proposing the Commonwealth restrict access to some Medicare billing items only to GP practices that opt in to a voluntary scheme while others are forced to bill wholly privately. The proposal would in effect create a two-tier system, where only those at those centres who opt in to the scheme would get bulk billed services, and those whose doctors do not opt in must pay full price.
The Doctors Reform Society have welcomes the out of the box thinking, saying the idea of linking doctors Medicare payments to their willingness to bulk bill patients and to work in areas of doctor shortage could be combined with voluntary enrolment of patients.
“The Doctors Reform Society welcomes these great suggestions which are indeed radical but intended to achieve the very mainstream idea of health equity i.e. equal access to equal care for equal need,” said Dr Tim Woodruff, President of the Doctors Reform Society.
“To put these ideas into place the Government would have to take on the doctors’ union, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) as it brings out constitutional lawyers to defend the rights of doctors to control taxpayer funded health services”, said Dr Woodruff.
“But when that battle is won by the Government, patients and taxpayers would know that the taxes poured into health services is for patients first, and only secondarily for doctors.”
“They would know that co-payments would not stop them accessing services.”
“They would know that GPs would be properly supported to give them access to services even in the country.”
“This would improve continuity and integration of care, a concept even the AMA now supports.”
“The Government could today increase the existing miserly incentive payment for bulk billing for pensioners and health care card holders to reduce the suffering and neglect that is increasing daily in the community as bulk billing rates fall across the country,” said Dr Woodruff.
“Minister Butler tells us primary care is in the worst state it has been in for years but appears reluctant to address the emergency with emergency measures,” said Dr Woodruff.
“It’s time to act now to help patients now, as well as planning the huge changes Medicare needs.”
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