Is There Only One Bulk Billing Lane Cove Medical Practice Left?

    On Lane Cove Chat by ITC, members regularly ask for details on local medical practices that bulk bill in the Lane Cove Council area.

    In 2023, only two bulk billing practices were left in the Lane Cove Council area.  In June 2023, only one bulk billing service will be left in the Lane Cove Council area. Please correct us if we are wrong!!

    Some practices may decide to bulk bill for an individual consultation, but this is usually at the doctor’s discretion.

    On Thursday, April 6th, the ITC phone pinged with messages informing us Emerald Medical Centre had sent out the following text:

    “Due to rising costs, Emerald Medical Practice will be private billing from 1 June 2023.  Please see our website for more information. Thank you for your understanding.

    On its website, Emerald Medical Practice states:

    “Since our beginning in 2010, Emerald Medical Practice has been a bulk billing practice. Over the past 15 years, Medicare rebates to medical practice, other CPI medical costs, everyday wages, and costs of everyday living. Therefore, for us to remain financially sustainable and provide the best possible health care to you that we want to provide, the practice has had to make the from 1 June 2023.”  Read more here.

    Lane Cove Council Discusses Lane Cove Bulk Billing Medical Practices

    At the March 2023 Lane Cove Council Meeting, Mayor Andrew Zbik, Councillor Kathy Bryla, and Councillor David Roenfeldt tabled a Notice of Motion recommending Lane Cove Council write to the Federal Minister for Health and the local Federal Member of Parliament to urge them to review the Medicare rebate in regard to bulk billing.

    The executive summary supporting the Notice of Motion included the following:

    “This month I was contacted by a resident who expressed their shock and distress about the lack of bulk billing options for General Practitioners in Lane Cove. They have been a bulk billed patients at a local medical centre for seven years, but as of 3rd March, the centre will no longer offer bulk billing to anyone. After contacting four medical centres in Lane Cove, they discovered that none of them offers bulk billing to patients anymore. Only one Medical Practice out of nine Medical Practices in Lane Cove offers bulk billing to patients.

    This situation creates a significant barrier for low-income earners in our area to access basic healthcare.

    This motion aims to ensure that all members of the Lane Cove community, regardless of their financial situation, have access to the healthcare they need.

    The Lane Cove community deserves access to affordable healthcare, and the lack of bulk billing general practices in our area is a significant barrier to achieving this goal.”

    The Lane Cove Councillors resolved unanimously to adopt the Notice of Motion.

    Where is the Closest Bulk Billing Practice?

    As far as ITC can discover, there is only bulk billing medical practice in the Lane Cove Council area and they are so busy they can’t take on more patients.

    If you are able to travel to Crows Nest, Our Medical Crows Nest is a bulk billing practice.

    Why Are Doctors No Longer Bulk Billing?

    In December 2022, the Medicare Taskforce Report was released. It outlines a vision for Australia’s primary care system of the future. The report recommends significant changes to how primary care is funded.  The Federal Government is currently reviewing the report.  Link to the report here.

    A 2023 Sydney Morning Herald article by Natassia Chrysanthos does a deep dive into why doctors are no longer bulk billing.

    The article quotes Dr Bruce Willett, the vice president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who has been a GP for 35 years. Dr Willet says:

    “One of the issues is that the Medicare system penalises doctors for spending longer with a patient,” Willett says. A doctor who manages five less-than-20-minute sessions in an hour, for example, would receive $198.75 from Medicare ($39.75 rebate per patient). But seeing two patients across that 60 minutes, for about half-an-hour each, would earn $153.90 ($76.95 rebate per patient) – a near $50 difference on their hourly rate.”

    In April 2023, a research report released by Christopher Harrison, Julie Gordon, Joan Henderson, Graeme Miller, and Helena Britt found that General Practice billings potentially saved Medicare Over $351 Million (Under or over? General practitioner charging of Medicare published in the Australian Journal of General Practice).

    The researchers calculated the cost/savings to Medicare from General Practitioner billing practices, according to the length of the consultation itself, have found that GPs frequently undercharge Medicare for patient consultations.

    The study found that of 2,760 GPs, 84.6 per cent undercharged Medicare for at least one consultation within a sample of 40 consultations. The study also found GPs undercharged 11.8 percent of total consultations and only overcharged 1.6 percent.

    The researchers estimate that GPs’ undercharging or overcharging resulted in an estimated saving of $351.7 million to Medicare in 2021- 2022.

    “Our study has shown that GPs are more likely to err towards undercharging than to overcharging. This contrasts with previous research and reports alleging widespread fraud related to GP billing of Medicare,” said lead author Dr Christopher Harrison from the Menzies Centre for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Sydney.

    “General practice is in crisis. Allegations of fraud have been damaging to a workforce that is struggling to attract medical graduates to general practice.”

    “While some GPs may undercharge Medicare for altruistic reasons and others because they still consider the complexity of care when determining the Medicare item charged, we believe that a major reason GPs undercharge, even for long consultations, is the fear of being audited.”

    “We hope that these results will help inform the current discussion around how to strengthen Medicare and primary care in particular.”

    “Evidence shows, time and time again, that a strong primary care system lowers the cost of care while providing better health outcomes for all.”

    Do You Know of a Local Bulk Billing Medical Practice?

    If you know of a local medical practice that is a bulk billing medical practice, please email us at [email protected].

    Please note ITC has no affiliation with the practice mentioned above.

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