Telehealth prominent in latest rise in Medicare bulk-billing rates

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Health minister Greg Hunt says the rate of bulk-billed Medicare services reached a record rate of 83.5 per cent in the final three months of 2021.

Minister Hunt said 81.9 per cent of Medicare services were bulk-billed during the 12 months of 2021, up from 81.4 per cent in 2020.

GP bulk billing rates also remain at record high levels, reaching 88.4 per cent in the December quarter.

"This is 0.3 per cent higher than the December 2020 quarter and 6.4 per cent higher than the December 2012 quarter. Over the 2021 calendar year, the GP bulk-billing rate was 88.7, 6.9 per cent higher than 2012," said Minister Hunt.

"This means almost nine out of 10 visits to the GP over the 2021 calendar year were provided with no out-of-pocket cost for the patient. This included 165.6 million fully subsidised GP services, a rise of 17 million or 11.4 per cent compared to 2020," he said.

Telehealth has become a significant feature of Medicare services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since its inception in March 2020, around 96 million telehealth services have been delivered to 16.8 million patients, with almost $5 billion in Medicare benefits paid.

“Through the 2021-22 Budget, our Government is investing $125.7 billion, up over $6 billion over the forward estimates, as part of our ongoing commitment to guarantee Medicare,” said Minister Hunt.

“This increased investment in Medicare also includes more than $65 million from 1 January 2022 to boost bulk billing rebates and provide more affordable healthcare particularly for patients in regional, rural, and remote areas."