Bulk billing incentive changes

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The Federal Government has proposed changes to bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging services.

The pathology changes were due to take affect from 1 July 2016 but the Federal Health Minister announced in mid-May that the timing had been delayed.  (See news release here)

Even if the changes proceed, NSW Health Pathology will still bulk bill.

The bulk bill incentive was introduced in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) in 2009.  The aim was to provide an incentive to bulk bill directly to Medicare as opposed to patients. The current bulk billing incentives are paid directly to pathology providers. 

Public pathology providers are paid roughly $1.40 per patient while other providers are paid up to $3.40 per patient depending on the test.  

The Federal Health Minister has said the bulk billing rates for pathology have increased 1 percent since the scheme was introduced in 2009 – an indication the scheme was not worth the $500 million the government had invested in it.  

If the proposed changes proceed, it’s understood patients with high out-of-pocket medical costs will continue to be covered by the Medicare Safety Net.

The Federal Health Minister has indicated there are no changes proposed to the cost of delivering or receiving a pap smear undertaken by a GP or specialist.  There is also no planned reduction in the dollar value of the Medicare rebate patients receive to have pathology tests.