Dr Monique Ryan is urgently calling on the Federal Government to wind back a poorly thought-through regulation that is already slowing GPs’ bulk-billing rates and preventing the most vulnerable in the country from seeking cheap healthcare.
The Independent Member for Kooyong is warning that a new Services Australia requirement that patients provide written consent for telehealth services adds a cumbersome layer of red tape to GPs that is hurting thousands of Australians at the
peak of a cost of living crisis.
“People are missing out on bulk-billed session because of a poorly thought-through regulation that requires patients to provide written consent for telehealth appointments,” Dr Ryan said.
“It’s a major misstep which I’m hearing is already impacting doctors’ bulk-billing activities. It will affect our most vulnerable the most - those without email or mobile phones, such as the elderly, the socially isolated, culturally diverse patients and those in rural and remote settings,” she added.
“I acknowledge Minister Butler’s comments on Friday stating he would examine the changes. I urge him to go a step further and scrap them as soon as possible.”
“The Albanese Government has done well to increase bulk-billing incentives for GPs. However, while it is important to cut down on fraud in the system, asking GPs to complete and post separate forms for every telehealth patient is crazy.”
“We can improve compliance by setting up better digital systems.
We need to do all in our power to ensure that Australians patients can receive bulk-billed Medicare services. I call on the Health Minister, Mark Butler, to act on this issue as a matter of urgency.”
- Patients sign a consent form when being bulk-billed in a medical clinic.
- As use of telehealth services became widespread during the COVID pandemic, the Department of Health and Aged Care permitted verbal consent for bulk-billing.
- Bulk-billing rates recently hit their lowest point in more than a decade.- and are now down to 80.2% nationally.
- New rules from Services Australia state that the preferred method for obtaining patient consent to be bulk billed for telehealth consultations is in writing or via email. While verbal consent remains possible – GPs now have to complete a separate form for each patient for whom this service is provided. They must then send the form to the patient “by email or text”.