The "cost" of bulk billing?

This might be controversial but I think it needs to be discussed. I have been prompted to write about the cost of health care services due to a recent increase in referrals from other health practitioners. This is great and we always welcome new referrals but it has presented a dilemma or two.

Many of the the new referrals come to us through the Chronic Disease Management Program (subsidised by Medicare) and the presenting patients are often surprised that we don't bulk bill our services. I think this is because most come from Bulk Billing GP practices and are used to not paying much (if anything) for medical services. Also, we have recently had a lot of people walk in off the street or ring on the phone to seek advice for their presenting complaint without actually making an appointment. As most will appreciate the latter is difficult to manage as we definitely do not like to consult on the phone or diagnose and treat in the waiting room.

There are many financial reasons we don't bulk bill but fundamentally we don't do it as it devalues the therapeutic relationship. Everyone should be entitled to health services and we offer concessions where possible but getting something for nothing seems to be an increasingly popular mentality when it comes to health.

There is a very big elephant in the room when it comes to bulk billing for service. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald noted the trend for poorer quality health care as the cost to the patient reduces. This is due to GP time management as it does not become cost effective to see patients for more time when they are being bulk billed. At Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic we will not sacrifice time with patients. Hence, we will not bulk bill. 

There have been suggestions regarding modifying Medicare payment processes and this may have been what the failed Federal Coalition Government Medicare Co-payment plan tried to address. The bottom line is those practitioners that choose to provide longer consults and spend more time gathering history and performing examinations/treatment should not be penalised.

We will always try and keep the cost of our consultations competitive for the business we are in. This is always a delicate balancing act.  Osteopathy Australia our national association continue to lobby for more provisions through Medicare for Osteopathic services so that we can provide that care to more patients patients from broader socio-economic backgrounds.

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