Government’s job not done to help Australians with healthcare costs: RACGP

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) is warning the Federal Government that their job is not done to improve access to essential care for Australians grappling with the cost-of-living crisis.

In a submission to the Select Committee on the Cost of Living, the RACGP said more needs to be done to reduce out-of-pocket medical costs for patients in the next Budget.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said cost-of-living is contributing to health inequity in Australia, and the government must do more to ensure every Australian can get the care they need.

“Last year’s Budget, including tripling bulk billing incentives for pensioners, healthcare card holders and children, was just the first step to rebuild Medicare after decades of underfunding – there is a long way to go to ensure every Australian can get the care they need,” she said.

“GPs are increasingly worried about their patients’ financial issues and the affordability of essential care – it was a top concern for GPs in our last Health of the Nation report.

“General practice has been hit with a double whammy. We suffered 10 years of underfunding including the Medicare freeze, and now this latest bout of rapid inflation.

“This is why Australian patients have seen out-of-pocket costs increase and healthcare become increasingly unaffordable; many GPs have had no choice but to increase fees to cover the practice costs and keep the doors open.

“General practice helps people live healthier and it needs to be affordable for everyone. Because when people can’t afford it, they get sicker and go to hospital, which costs taxpayers much more. A typical GP consult is $40, whereas a hospital visit costs $600 before someone is even admitted.

“Australians need concrete action in the next Budget. The RACGP has recommended providing immediate relief by increasing patients’ Medicare rebates, including for longer consults and mental health, and funding for universal annual children’s health checks for the first 2,000 days – which helps set kids up for life.

“These investments 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 GDP growth annually.

“I urge the government to use the Budget to 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 for 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.