Bulk billing rate shows funding gets results, but more needed: RACGP

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has welcomed news of increased bulk billing rates but warned the Federal Government more still needs to be done to improve patient access to essential healthcare.

The Federal Government has announced that the GP bulk billing rate in March 2024 was 77.7%, a 2.1% rise since November.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said this shows investment into Medicare for general practice services has helped patients access essential care, but more support is needed in the next Budget.

“Funding gets results,” she said.

Last year’s Federal Budget tripled the bulk billing incentives for pensioners, healthcare card holders and children. It was just the first step to ensuring our patients can access the healthcare they need and that we have enough GPs to keep people healthy and out of hospital into the future.

“We saw in January that bulk billing had lifted 2.1% since November, and that’s held true in March. Further increases will require further investment into Medicare and general practice, including general practice teams. Everyone agrees making healthcare more affordable is a priority, and I think that is investment people will strongly support.

“The increased bulk billing incentive boosted bulk billing generally, but was focused on specific groups. We need concrete action in the next Budget to support patients and practices.

“The RACGP has recommended providing immediate cost-of-living relief by increasing patients’ Medicare rebates, including for longer consults and mental health, which are an increasingly important part of the care GPs provide across patient groups. This will help make Australia healthier, reduce pressure on our hospitals and lead to a stronger economy.

“In 2017, the Productivity Commission estimated improving the health of people in poor or fair health would result in an extra $4 billion of GDP growth annually. The mental health and preventive healthcare that those changes support will make a real difference, not to mention the improvement this will make to the quality of life for these patients.

“We should also set babies and children up for a healthy life. That’s why we’ve called for funding for universal annual children’s health checks in the first 2,000 days, also reducing the cost-of-living burden on families.

“The next budget must continue strengthening Medicare and reduce out-of-pocket medical costs for Australians. General practice care helps people live healthier lives – making it more affordable for everyone is the smartest, and most cost-effective investment the government can make.”

The RACGP is calling on the Federal Government to improve access to care and affordability in its pre-Budget Submission 2024-25, amid widespread evidence that Australians are delaying essential care due to financial concerns.

  • A 20% increase to patients’ Medicare rebates for longer consultations and extra support for rural patients to make care more affordable and accessible, especially for those with chronic and complex health issues.
  • A 20% increase in patient rebates for GP mental health consultations to reduce Australia’s burden of mental health issues.
  • Support for practices to grow their teams and employ other health professionals to improve care and access for patients by increasing incentives and dedicated funding for a practice-based pharmacist.
  • Funding for universal annual children’s health checks in the first 2,000 days, which sets a child up for life.
  • New funding to support coordinated care for older Australians requiring complex care to improve health outcomes and reduce costs to the health system.
  • Funding to support patients to see their GP within seven days of an unplanned hospital visit to improve health outcomes and reduce readmissions.


/Public Release.