Primary care costs will shift to patients, GPs warn

GPs have warned a perfect storm of cost pressures will force bulk-billing rates down and shift the cost of primary care onto patients, even as the government argued bulk-billing records in the past quarter showed Medicare fees were high enough.

AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said news last week that Medicare fees would rise by 2% could be the last straw for GPs already struggling to deal with the loss of mental health, and practice nurse “on behalf of” item numbers.

But a spokesperson for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said bulk-billing rates were 75% for non-referred services in 2010–11, and a record 80.9% for the past quarter.

University of Western Australia professor of general practice Dr Alistair Vickery said GPs had not been adequately recompensed in 20 years for the increasing complexity of care they provided.

However KPMG director of health Dr Henry Cutler said the bulk-billing rates and the number of people