GPs face a Clayton’s Medicare increase
The financial pressure on general practitioners will ease a little next month when a two per cent increase in the Medicare rebate for a number of services comes into effect.
The long-awaited increase, which was originally due last November until the previous Government deferred it until 1 July this year, will help go some way to ameliorate rising practice costs.
But AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler said the modest increase was inadequate and would be quickly overtaken by increasing expenses and cuts – including the $5 reduction in Medicare rebates introduced as part of the $7 co-payment for Medicare services.
“The Government must recognise that the cost of providing medical services increases each year, as practice costs increases, and that the single fee charged by the doctor has to cover expenses,” A/Professor Owler said. These expenses include staff wages, rent, utilities, insurance, professional development and accreditation costs and supplies.
The AMA President said that in announcing the rebate increase the Government was engaging in “sleight of hand”, because of the $5 rebate cut and the imposition of the $7 co-payment.
He added that Medicare rebates for a range of other services, including specialist, consultant physician and psychiatry consultations, operations and anaesthesia, were last indexed in 2012 and the Government had no plans to index them again until mid-2016.
“That’s an almost four-year freeze [on] the rebate the Government will pay towards the cost of specialist medical treatment,” A/Professor Owler said, and warned that private insurers might similarly put their rebates on hold, potentially hitting more health fund members with out-of-pocket costs.
The two per cent increase will apply to the following Medicare schedule items from 1 July:
· Group A1 – general practitioner attendances;
· Group A5 – prolonged attendances on a patient in imminent danger of death;
· Group A6 – group therapy;
· Group A7 – acupuncture – only GP items;
· Group A11 – urgent attendance after hours – only GP items;
· Group A14 – health assessments;
· Group A15 – GP management plans, TCA and case conferencing – only GP items;
· Group A17 – domiciliary and residential management reviews;
· Group A18 – GP attendances associated with PIP payments;
· Group A20 – GP Mental health Treatment;
· Group A22 – GP after-hours attendances;
· Group A27 – pregnancy support counselling;
· Group A29 – early intervention services for children with autism or pervasive development disorder or disability – only item 139 for GP management plan;
· Group A30 – telehealth attendances; and
· Group M1 – bulk billed incentives.
The indexation of all other Medicare items will be frozen for a further two years.