Online health directory Cleanbill has released a report showing almost 65 per cent of GP clinics no longer offer bulk billing to patients, with four federal electorates containing no bulk billing practices at all.
In “deeply concerning” findings, the report outlines declining bulk billing rates across the country.
New South Wales was the only state or territory outperforming the national average, with 49 per cent of clinics offering bulk bills to patients, while the Australian Capitol Territory and Tasmania were the worst performing.
Just 6.9 per cent of GPs offer bulk billing in Tasmania, while only 5.5 per cent of practices in the ACT allow patients the option.
The report found there were “limited” options for residents across the country, raising concerns about the ongoing affordability of healthcare across Australia.
“With only 35.1 per cent of GP clinics bulk billing nationally, Australians’ options for finding a bulk billing GP in most electorates are limited,” Cleanbill said.
“Across Australia, there are no federal electorates where 100 per cent of GP clinics bulk bill, but there are 4 federal electorates (Fairfax, Franklin, Mayo and Newcastle) where bulk billing as a practice has ceased to exist.”
Alongside the decline in bulk billing, the report highlights “enormous variances” in the out-of-pocket costs for everyday Australians in different electorates.
Wentworth, a Sydney electorate encompassing Vaucluse and Rose Bay, has an average out-of-pocket cost of $56.25 for a standard 15-minute consultation with a GP, the most expensive anywhere in Australia.
Canberra is the third most expensive electorate, with a trip to the doctor putting patients back $51.59, while the national average comes in at $40.42.
The out-of-pocket costs come on top of the existing Medicare rebate of $39.75 for a standard consultation.
Cleanbill says the rising cost of primary care is “deeply concerning.”
“In these circumstances, it’s easy to see why hundreds of thousands of Australians per year delay or forgo care with a GP in their community because of concerns surrounding cost,” they said.
“These Australians almost inevitably end up in public hospitals.
“This should not be happening.”
Speaking to Sky News Australia, former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said “gaps” were beginning to emerge in Australia’s primary healthcare system.
“Those gaps are starting to emerge in what Medicare is able to give a general practitioner for their time and what their time is actually worth,” he said.
He also pointed out the significant difference between Cleanbill’s report and the government’s figures which showed bulk billing rates at 80 per cent in February.
“When the government reports 80 per cent bulk billing rates, it’s talking about every item number for every single general practice consultation,” he said.
The Cleanbill report focuses only on the cost of standard consultations.
“This (the Cleanbill report) is the sort of data that the Federal government should produce, because otherwise people take the 80 per cent and it’s very different to their experience,” said Dr Coatsworth.