Abolishing bulk billing incentive hits regional patients

Shadow Assistant Health Minister Stephen Jones says the Abbott Government’s $7 GP Tax is an attack on rural and regional health by removing the incentive payment for GPs in non-metropolitan areas to bulk bill patients.

“The Bulk Billing incentive payments in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) currently provide a higher payment of $9.10 for rural and regional areas and all of Tasmania, with a smaller incentive for GPs in the cities”, said Jones.

“Tony Abbott wants to slash these payments across the board and introduce a flat fee – removing any incentive for rural and regional GPs to bulk bill.

“This is an all-out declaration of war on Medicare by the Abbott Government – using some of Australia’s most vulnerable patients as its victims.

“The biggest health issue facing patients in regional Australia is access to GP and specialist services. They pay more in transport to visit a health provider, who is already less likely to bulk-bill”, said Jones.

In 2011 the National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health found that patients outside major cities were more likely to be admitted to hospital for conditions that could have been prevented through access to GP non-hospital services and care.

“People in rural and regional areas don’t go to the doctor because they’re bored. They go because they’re sick and they want the opinion, advice and care of a qualified professional.

“The Abbott Government should not be making it even harder for them to access primary healthcare.

“The Coalition have a long-held grudge against Medicare. Removing the rural and regional incentive is the final nail in the coffin. It is a clear attempt to kill bulk-billing once and for all.

“Tony Abbott said before the election, his Government would be the best friend Medicare has ever had.

“With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

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