Bulk Billing: What Is It and How Has It Revolutionised Medical Care in Australia?

Bulk billing allows Australian residents to receive treatment at no cost after filling a prescription and paying the Medicare levy. Meanwhile, it has existed since the introduction of Medicare in 1975 and initially applied to over 65% of GP consultations, and now bulk bill optometrists have made eye treatment affordable and convenient. However, since then, it has been extended to cover those on low incomes and those who are immunised.

It Is Now Available in Eye Care!

Patients with eye-related conditions can now choose to consult bulk bill optometrists instead of a private ophthalmologist. It is because the bulk bill funding that would usually be paid out through a government subsidy is instead re-directed to directly fund the GP, who can then provide the services free of charge to their patient.

What All Does It Cover?

This scheme may also be referred to as “no gap,” “no billed gap,” or “concession card” (GP). In some cases, no costs to the patient are incurred. However, patients must often pay a fee towards the consultation cost in the form of a co-payment, which is currently $37.80 (as of 1 July 2016). The co-payment was introduced in 1991 by the Hawke Labor Government as part of a series of budget cuts enacted to reduce federal expenditure.

Bulk bill practice is often confused with “concessionary fees,” “free,” or “low cost” GP fees, or a Medicare rebate. However, these do not necessarily mean that a patient will have reduced out-of-pocket expenses.

What Are the Advantages of Bulk Billing?

First, there tend not to be any ‘out-of-pocket’ costs for an individual; their medication and consultation will be covered by Medicare as long as they have already filled a prescription and paid their levy for that year.

Secondly, the bulk bill scheme saves money, and it is because it is cheaper for the government to cover consultation costs than to pay out a claimant’s lost wages. Also, it encourages choice within the healthcare system as people opt for consultations where they can get the bulk bill scheme and avoid low co-payment levels should they get charged more in other areas.

Fourth, there are no out-of-pocket expenses for the patient, making consultations more accessible and encouraging people who would otherwise not seek medical treatment.

This scheme has been successful for Australia because it allows patients to be treated according to their values and not just according to health insurance schemes which only work if everyone follows them. Besides, this often leads people to use expensive services from professionals supported by incentives based on health insurance.

How Does It Work?

Bulk billing is beneficial for private clinicians and patients in Australia. The assistance is paid directly to the GP, who then provides you with a receipt. Meanwhile, the patient may be charged a small fee for certain services that are eligible for co-payment under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). And these include pathology services and x-rays, but not for items that are not listed on the MBS, such as vitamins and medicines, hearing tests, or medical certificates.

Bulk billing has been revolutionary in providing universal healthcare for all Australians. It has allowed superb choice over which doctor you want to see, rather than being locked into following one.

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