Registration fees and bulk billing don’t mix: Medicare

After reports emerged last year that at least one Perth practice was charging a patient registration fee, Medicare’s latest newsletter to health professionals has warned that “legislation prohibits you from charging any co-payment when a professional service is being bulk billed”.

The newsletter did not name any practices or say how common the double-charging had become but said “to bulk bill, the patient must be able to get the service without having to make any additional payment for the service”.

“An example of a co-payment would be the charging of an annual ‘registration fee’ as a condition for patients ‘remaining on the books’ and receiving a guarantee of early consultation appointments,” the newsletter said.

Dr Brian Morton, chair of the AMA’s Council of General Practice, said it was well known that doctors “cannot charge a fee at the time of a consultation which you