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Is the slight Medicare freeze lift enough for General Practitioners?

Written by BLG Business Advisers . October 17, 2018
2 min read

The Federal Government announced a gradual lifting of the five-year Medicare rebate freeze as part of its 2017-18 budget. In addition to this, from 1 July 2018 the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) group A1 – GP attendances or consultation items, which includes the most commonly claimed items, is set to be indexed.

The increase of around 1.5% sits lower than the 2% CPI over the last two years, and though it is lower than the CPI increase, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) indicates the freeze being gradually lifted is a positive step. However, despite this, the RACGP upholds that the value of care provided by general practitioners (GPs) is not reflected in the indexation rates.

Indexation Rate Phases

The reintroduction of indexation will be applied in the following phases:

  • From 1 July 2017, bulk billing incentives for GPs will be indexed.
  • From 1 July 2018, standard GP consultations and specialist attendances will be indexed.
  • From 1 July 2019, specialist procedures and allied health services will be indexed.
  • From 1 July 2020, certain targeted diagnostic imaging services will be indexed.

Impacts of the Medicare freeze

One of the impacts surrounding the extended freeze for GPs comes from their reimbursement equaling the same amount for consultations in 2020 as they were in 2014, while the costs associated with their practices, staff, medical supplies and more have all gone up.

While the freeze has been controversial, the impact it had on patient access wasn’t clear initially. The rates of GP bulk-billing has remained steady until recently, however patients who were not using bulk-billed services experienced an inevitable increase in the average payment they made for the service.

The role of GPs includes treating patients to keep them healthy, which then prevents them from needing the more costly community services such as hospitals. The concern is that with less affordable GP care options available for lower income individuals, this results in untreated health conditions which end up requiring hospital treatment.

Ensure your practice is set up to withhold uncertain circumstances. Take this opportunity to get in touch with a member of our team at BLG Business Advisers today, either online or by calling (02) 4229 2211.

*This information is relevant at the time of publishing and is subject to change*
Written by BLG Business Advisers . October 17, 2018
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