Bulky billing: Missing out on fair and affordable health care

Australians are paying more than $1 billion each year in out-of-pocket expenses for GP visits, pharmaceuticals, pathology and diagnostic testing despite Medicare's pledge to provide "fair and affordable" health care, a new study by The Australia Institute reveals. Bulky Billing: Missing out on fair and affordable health care examines the shortfalls in Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the role GPs can play in determining out-of pocket expenses.

The study also confirmed that many Australians are forgoing treatment, with 23% of survey respondents admitting they had postponed or avoided having a prescription filled because they could not afford to pay for it.

Research Fellow David Baker said GPs have enormous discretion over how much patients pay, not just for their consultation, but for drugs and pathology and diagnostic tests." Only 6% of survey respondents reported first hearing about generic medications from their GP, while 43% said they would not use generic medication without first checking with their doctor. Just 17% realised that it was up to their doctor to tick the bulk billing box on referral forms for pathology tests," said Mr Baker.

Media release

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