The Australian Doctors Federation (ADF) acknowledges the announcement of significant new funding to support vulnerable patients’ access to primary care.

However the ADF cautions that increasing the incentive paid to GPs to bulk bill certain patients does not address the fundamental problems facing general practice.

The most noteworthy health announcement in the 2023 Federal Budget triples the incentive payment to doctors for bulk billing children under 16 and concession card holders.

The ADF believes that the increase would have been better applied to the Medicare rebate itself, so that all Australians and all GP practices could benefit from new funding.

There are currently millions of Australians without concession cards and hundreds of GP practices struggling to keep their heads above water under the strains of inflation, high taxes and high insurance premiums. Therefore the ADF fears the creation of a 2-tier Medicare system, adding to administrative costs and uncertainty for practices, and the general public’s confusion about Medicare rebates, bulk billing and doctors’ fees.

The absence of legislated indexation of adequate and equitable GP bulk-billing remuneration creates an ongoing precarious environment for the sector, with the associated risk that young doctors deciding their future may eschew this essential area of clinical practice.