Improving Bulk Billing rates in Newcastle


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle—Deputy Speaker) (16:27): I want to give a very big happy 40th birthday shout-out to Medicare today. After a decade of Liberal government cuts and neglect we now have a government that fully understands the value of investing in universal health care, and the results are showing. On 1 November the Albanese government tripled the bulk-billing incentives for GPs, making trips to the doctor cheaper for children, pensioners and concession card holders. That change has resulted in an increase of 2.7 per cent in the bulk-billing rates in Newcastle. That means 1,300 more bulk billed visits since November and a saving of $61,000 to Novocastrians. It's helping people like Matthew of Carrington, who wrote to me saying:

Sharon, I want to thank you and the government for tripling the bulkbilling. My health was failing because I couldn't afford to pay to see a GP. Just found a wonderful doctor who not only bulkbills but is very caring and getting my health back on track.

By the government increasing bulkbilling I can now be able to visit the doctor on a more regular basis.

Another constituent, who's a pensioner, told me of her relief at being bulk billed at her last visit to the GP. When she found out it was because Labor had tripled the bulk-billing incentive, she said:

This is such wonderful news as I feel like I can now go to the doctor more often and not put it off.

These are great stories to hear. Sadly, they're still not commonplace. Our incentives are very carefully targeted to the most vulnerable cohorts in our community, yet I know many people remain struggling to get access to a bulk-billing doctor in Newcastle. Everyone should have access to affordable quality primary health care. That's what Labor stands for. The former government's successive cuts and neglect of Medicare have left our GP system in a state of crisis, particularly in Newcastle. It means that rates, for the first time in 10 years, have stopped the downward spiral. They're stabilising, and we've seen an upward trajectory, but the base that we start from is very low. I really encourage Newcastle's GPs to take up this financial incentive and consequently pass on critical savings to their patients by providing bulk-billing services to those in need. I also ask Novocastrians to stay in touch with me and my office so we can help track those changes and I can hear firsthand the difference that you are seeing in your health as a result of GPs taking up these incentives to do bulk-billing.

We still have lots of work to do, but the recent uptick in the bulk-billing rates is very heartening. As I said, for the first time in 10 years it has put a stop to the downward spiral, but there is more to do.