The Abbott government has scrapped its controversial A$7 co-payment plan and replaced it with a A$5 cut to GP rebates for patients over 16 without a concession card, and other rebate changes.
The revised plan comes after seven months of failed negotiations with crossbenchers and widespread concern a co-payment would reduce vulnerable patients’ access to care and drive people to already overburdened emergency departments.
Doctors may choose to pass the A$5 cut on to patients or they may charge more. GPs are currently able to set their own fees, with many using the AMA guide, which recommends a fee of A$73 for a standard consultation of up to 20 minutes.
Rebates for children, pensioners, veterans, aged care residents and other concession card holders will remain the same. Rebates for all health checks, mental health plans, chronic disease management plans will also remain the same. There will be no policy changes for blood tests and diagnostic imaging.
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From July 1 2015, if you don’t have a concession card and are usually bulk billed, you may face a A$5 co-payment, or more.
If you’re not usually bulk billed, your GP may also set a new fee. This may be passed on to you when you visit your Medicare office to claim your rebate. In this case, you will receive A$32.05 rather than A$37.05 for a ten to 20 minute consultation.
The indexation of GP rebates has been frozen until July 2018 so GPs are likely to increase their fees over the next three years to recoup some of this lost income.
If your GP visits are usually quick, you may find your GP spends more time with you from January 16 2015. The government will introduce a ten-minute minimum time for level B consultations, which make up the bulk of GP visits.