Bulk Billing: An Integral Part of the Australian Health System

Doctors and medical professionals are a key part of one's life. Whether you are in complete health or have some kind of health issue, you will most likely visit a doctor regularly to get your health checked. It can be quite expensive visiting a doctor, especially  when you are seeing a specialist where a single consultation fee can be lengthy. In Australia, the bulk billing system helps to offset these costs and allow you to get treated without emptying your pockets. 

What are bulk billing medical services?

Upon the conclusion of a doctor's visit, you will have one of two options offered to you for billing. One is to pay for the services using your patient account, and the other is to have your fee bulk billed. When you pay through your patient account, the doctor you may be able to claim back a certain portion of this fee through Medicare. The amount you get back from Medicare is known as the Medicare refund. 

The second option, as mentioned, is bulk billing. This is the practice where your doctor chooses to accept the Medicare benefit/rebate (85-100% of the total fee) from the government as full payment for the services. All you have to do is to sign a form, and the doctor will directly bill Medicare for their services.

Medicare is the government scheme where all Australian taxpayers earning above a set threshold must pay 1.5% of their taxable income or 2.5% for high-income earners. This payment is known as the Medicare levy. 

Medicare helps to pay for a range of healthcare costs that include specialist and doctors' fees, any diagnostic tests ordered by doctors/specialists, eye exams as well as almost all surgical procedures. 

Unfortunately, bulk billing rates have been on the decline owing to increased costs of running practices. This is why Medicare may also provide additional payment to certain doctors practicing in eligible areas when they bulk bill healthcare card holders, pensioners and people aged over 16. However, there is still a decline in bulk billing in comparison to the past. As such, doctors and specialists may limit bulk billing to a specific time of the day, bill only those with concession cards or decide not to bulk bill their fees. 

Hence, before visiting any doctor or specialist, it is important to ask whether they bulk bill or not. If they don't, then ask them what the gap payment will be.