Stop The Patient Tax Grab: GPs launch bold campaign to save general practice care for South Australian patients

GPs across South Australia have today launched a campaign urging the South Australian Government to immediately intervene and stop the Patient Tax crippling general practice care.

It comes following figures from Australia’s largest patient engagement platform HotDoc revealing:

· 95% of clinics responding to the HotDoc survey are planning to increase patient fees by an average of $12 per appointment in response to the payroll tax hit

· just 28% of patients would continue to see their regular GP if fees increased, and less regularly at that.

The campaign, which is being launched this morning at Elizabeth Family Health Care by RACGP South Australia Chair Dr Sian Goodson, is a last stand to save general practice care and ensure no patients are left behind. It will see South Australian practices put up posters informing patients about the Patient Tax grab, which started after a new interpretation of payroll tax law deemed GPs working under independent agreements as employees.

Patients will be asked to sign a petition calling on the Government to act now so that healthcare is affordable for everyone.

Dr Goodson said that the RACGP had a plan to save general practice care.

“The RACGP has solutions at the ready,” she said.

“After welcoming the state-wide amnesty announced mid-last year, we have been working closely with the Government on a long-term solution. Only the Queensland Government has provided a new payroll tax ruling, clarifying that patients’ fees paid directly to a GP for their services will not be subject to payroll tax.

“So, we call on the South Australian Government to align with the Queensland Government payroll tax ruling and support GPs and practice teams in South Australia. We need a full exemption from payroll tax for independent GPs and no payroll tax on patients’ fees paid to independent GPs for their services.”

The RACGP South Australia Chair said that time was of the essence.

“We are running out of time to save general practice care from the Patient Tax,” she said.

“The clock is ticking down, because when the amnesty ends on 30 June this year, many practices will be forced to raise patient fees, reduce bulk-billing, or close their doors for good. This will leave some patients with nowhere to turn and have a dire impact on South Australia’s entire health system. More and more patients will miss a GP consult and turn up to already under-pressure hospital emergency departments with conditions that could and should have been managed by their usual GP.

“The time to act is now. We are launching this campaign to drive home the message that without urgent action general practice care will collapse under the weight of the Patient Tax. Any investment from the federal Government trying to salvage bulk-billing rates will be for nothing unless the South Australian Government decides to support GPs, practice teams, and patients, and save us from this Patient Tax.”

Dr Goodson said that no patients should miss out.

“Everyone deserves access to general practice care, irrespective of postcode or income,” she said.

“This Patient Tax threatens the very foundation of general practice. National appointment booking platform HotDoc conducted a survey that found 95% of respondent practices will increase patient fees by an average of $12 per consult in response to the Patient Tax. This will result in just a little over a quarter of all patients continuing to see their regular GP, meaning poorer health outcomes for our community.

“This cannot stand, so we call on the Government to heed our campaign and act decisively to secure the future of general practice care.”

General practices already pay payroll tax on their employees, including receptionists, GPs in training and nurses. However, it has never applied to GPs because most doctors are not employees, they work under independent agreements.

The South Australian Government has provided a “pause” on audits via an amnesty announced last year designed to prevent practices having to close or increase fees due to the new interpretation of the law. In September 2023, the Queensland Government announced a new Revenue Office ruling clarifying that patients fees paid directly to a GP for their services will not be subject to payroll tax.

/Public Release. View in full here.