Australians will be walking away from doctors in pain after a recommendation that would result in patients spending more than $40 a visit.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has released a list of recommended fees for medical services, including a suggested increase to general practitioner (GP) fees from $76 to $78 for a 20-minute visit.
As the Medicare rebate is frozen at the 2014 level of $37.05, patients will be $40.95 out of pocket at GPs who increase their fees.
During the recent election campaign, Malcolm Turnbull promised Australians the Medicare freeze would not affect how people will pay for a visit to the doctors.
Despite this, the new set price is a result of GPs needing to provide quality care while still running their business. Costs for electricity, medical supplies, and rent can affect the price which GPs charge at different practices.
AMA Vice President Dr. Tony Bartone blames the significant difference between the medicare benefit schedule (MBS) indexation and the cost of providing efficient medical care for the differing costs of AMA fees and MBS fees.
Patients will be out of pocket further in the future due to the widening gap between the cost of going to the GP and the frozen Medicare rebate.
“The MBS simply has not kept pace with the complexity or cost of providing high-quality medical services,” Dr Bartone said.
The AMA president Professor Brian Owler pleaded in July against the rebate freeze:
Bulk billing is no longer a viable option as practices are unable to absorb the costs anymore.
“The freeze is an enormous burden on hardworking GPs. Practices cannot continue absorbing the increasing costs of providing quality care year after year.”
“Many patients will pay more to see their doctor because of the Medicare freeze. It is inevitable that many GPs will need to review their decision to bulk bill some of their patients,” he said in a statement.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley told the ABC people should remember that it’s not the government who pay doctors.
“We respect and we value that doctors are small businesses and they have scope to set their fees according to their wishes, their business model, and their patient cohort,” she said.
The gap between the Medicare rebate and GP fees are rising on average 6.5 per cent a year. – Megan Simmonds