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Has Medicare and bulk billing improved?

About 3 years ago all the doctors in our area stopped bulk billing (except for children). This appeared to be a combination of the Howard government trying to change medicare, the Howard government trying to get people to take out private health insurance and the medical indemnity insurance crisis for doctors. Any time you visited the doctor you either paid the gap, and stuffed around with receiving cheques in the mail and gettting them back to the doctor, or you paid the full consultation fee at consultation time getting a rebate later from medicare. Despite the issues with not having a medicare office in our area at the time (one is now operating), you were out of pocket between $45 and $60 for each visit.

If you were ill, and had to see a doctor 4 times in a fortnight, that was about $200 you needed cash in hand upfront PLUS costs of resulting medicine.

If you were broke until your next payday, you could not see a doctor if ill, and had to attend the closest hospital emergency room if you really needed to see someone.

Paying my yearly 1.5% medicare levy tax I was getting less access to a GP for than I was a year earlier (2002), and putting a strain on hospital staff when someone in the family was sick.

What’s different now?

A large bulk billing all in one Centre has opened recently near to where I live. They have long operating hours, a pharmacy on site and no requirement to book in advance.

Having been unwell for the past 2 weeks after a trip to Australia’s tropics, I have had to see a GP 5 times, and have spent close to $200 on medicine. If John Howard had got his way and scaled back medicare, I would have had to have another $250 cash upfront to see the doctors. Each visit set me back about 20 minutes instead of 3 to 4 hours waiting in the emergency wards for treatment of something that is minor on their scale of inpatients. This is a boon for the previously over-stretched Victorian hospitals.

The doctors that have setup their consultancy and clinic using medicare’s bulk billing have saved our family a lot of money (using our medicare levy to the patients benefit), hassle, time and allowed me to actually see an expert when I really was ill, getting treated correctly.

I’m glad medicare still exists and I’m glad someone saw the benefit to a community by offering these services. Australia: lets not go the way of the health system in the US, where cash is king.