The Decline of Bulk Billing and Its Impact on General Practice in Australia

The Australian healthcare landscape is undergoing a significant transformation as bulk billing – a once-common practice – is slowly fading away. 
Bulk billing refers to the process where medical practitioners accept Medicare benefits as full payment for their services, making healthcare more accessible and affordable for all Australians. However, recent data highlights a concerning trend in general practice, with only 17% of clinics offering bulk-billed services exclusively.
The Medicare rebate is pushing clinics away from bulk billing
This shift away from bulk billing can be attributed to the increasing financial pressures faced by clinics. The Medicare rebate for patients has not kept pace with inflation, making it increasingly difficult for bulk billing practices to cover their operational costs.
As a result, an increasing number of clinics are transitioning towards mixed or private billing models to ensure their financial sustainability.
In the next 12 months, 33% of bulk billing clinics are planning to move to mixed billing, while only 28% have no plans to change their billing model.
Healthcare accessibility is at risk and drives innovation
The move away from bulk billing is not without its consequences. One primary concern is the potential impact on healthcare accessibility for disadvantaged patients.
Dr. Colin Goodson, CMO at Better Medical, highlights the risk of delayed care-seeking among those who cannot afford the additional fees.
Despite these concerns, the shift is also driving innovation in healthcare delivery, as clinics seek to maintain their patient base while adjusting to new billing models.
Effective change management is essential
Many practice owners and managers have already experienced this change firsthand, finding that effective communication with both patients and doctors is essential for a successful transition to mixed/private billing models.
By clearly explaining the reasons behind the change and addressing concerns, these practices have been able to maintain their patient numbers without compromising on the quality of care.
What else is changing the General Practice landscape?
If you would like to learn more about Bulk Billing and other important trends in Primary Care, we invite you to download the Changing Landscape of General Practice, a 2023 White Paper that surveyed 717 medical centres on the major topics of the day.

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