Let’s Talk About Fees.
You have probably noticed the commentary in the media about the move away from bulk billing in general practice.
Perhaps you have been surprised by an increased out-of-pocket cost to see your GP.
As owners of the Edmonton Family Medical Centre, we are private small business owners, just like your local independent retailer, freelance artist or tradie.
We have been providing medical services to the Edmonton community for more than 20 years and we have strived to provide the highest standard of health care to our patients.
This included bulk billing these services at no extra cost.
The costs of providing this health care have continued to rise sharply due to the increasing cost of modern technologies and medicines, and running a business that employs a skilled work force.
The GP you see is also a private, small business owner.
The fees you pay to see your GP are how they earn their money.
Medicare does not pay GPs. Medicare pays you.
The Federal Government determines your Medicare rebate and how much help they want you to receive to pay your health bills.
Medicare rebates have never kept pace with inflation and in fact any rises have been effectively frozen over the last 10 years.
From 2013-2018, the government froze your Medicare rebate to see a GP, and since then, the annual increase has been well below the consumer price index (CPI).
This year the government paid you a slight 1.6 per cent increase in your Medicare rebate, and over these years, the GPs have been absorbing the difference and slowly watching the profession erode under strain.
As a result, the current funding for general practice is less than half of what if should be if it kept up with the real-world costs of delivering a high-quality general practice service.
We have now reached a stage where the Medicare rebate cannot sustain the long-term viability of our medical service.
Your Medicare rebate currently stands at $39.75 for a standard consult lasting between 10 and 20 minutes.
This amount must cover room rental, administrative and nursing services, medical consumables, compulsory medicolegal insurance, income tax, mandatory professional development, with a small amount left for the doctor to live on.
Most GPs get no leave entitlements whatsoever.
No annual, sick, maternity, compassionate or long service leave.
If they are sick at home – no income.
Having a baby – no income. Caring for a loved one – no income.
When a patient doesn’t show up for their appointment – no income, yet many costs continue.
Please understand the Medicare rebate is your payment from the government to help you pay for your healthcare.
When you’re bulk billed, you provide consent to redirect your rebate to your GP as payment for their service.
The GP misses out on the difference between the government’s payment to you and the actual cost of your healthcare, which is more than double your rebate amount.
Every time your GP bulk bills your consult, they take more than a 50 per cent pay cut to what the Australian Medical Association (AMA) recommends they should charge.
The GP absorbs this and has been doing so for years. But it’s slowly destroying their business viability and they need to sometimes charge a gap fee.
Bulk billing is no longer sustainable for general practices in Australia.
Gap fees are now essential for practices to survive. GPs are at breaking point, and it can’t go on.
There is then a further burden of the decrease in medical graduates taking up the career of a GP, particularly in regional Australia.
In the 1980s, about 40 per cent of graduates chose general practice; this is now down to 15 per cent.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has reported there are 10 new non-GP specialists to every one new GP.
Our GPs and practice teams see patients every day who are angry about the cost of their GP visit.
We understand this frustration.
The best thing we can do to safeguard affordable healthcare is to continue to raise this issue with the government to increase your Medicare rebate.
GPs are not Medicare-funded employees. We’re small business owners trying to keep patients healthy and our businesses alive.
For our practice to be sustainable and continue to deliver the best standard of care for our patients, from January 1st, 2023, we will be introducing a gap fee.
Extensive consideration has gone into this decision, and we thank you for your understanding.
We will continue to bulk bill children under 16, pension and concession card holders and DVA patients. Please see our website (www. edmontonfmc.com.au) or reception for a copy of our Bulk Billing Policy.
The Specialist GP’s and our clinic staff are fully committed to providing our community with the best affordable health care.
Dr Anthony and Mrs Kerry Kresevic