The shift in bulk billing rates is part of safeguarding the well-being and satisfaction of practitioners. More practices are choosing mixed and private billing models to reduce stress and workload and combat record levels of burnout in our industry. At the end of the day, if a practice doesn’t have doctors, it can’t see patients.
For the practice, more patients per hour mean a larger waiting room, more reception and admin staff, more paperwork around claiming, more consumables, and even more car parks. This dramatically affects labour costs, consumables, and rent, further threatening the margins of bulk billing practice.
Having run a 20-doctor bulk billing practice in one of Brisbane’s lowest socio-economic suburbs, the impact of seeing more patients for fewer billings was always front of mind. It was imperative to balance financial sustainability with patient access to primary care. We know that every general practice is striving for that same balance on behalf of their patients and society, and for that, we are grateful.
The fall in bulk billing rates is more pronounced among metropolitan practices. The Touchstone data identified that MM1 (Metro) bulk billing as a percentage of total billings has dropped from 72% to 56% in 2022. Whereas this is only a decline of 86% to 83% for MM6-7 (Very remote and outer rural) bulk billing over the same period. This can possibly be attributed to this Report’s findings that 58% of metropolitan practices are targeting a revenue uplift compared to 45% of their regional peers. In turn, this may also be buoying higher average confidence in metro practices.