The Federal Government says new figures on bulk billing rates prove Labor’s campaign on its treatment of Medicare has no basis, with an increase in the number of GP visits fully paid for by the scheme last financial year.
Out of 145 million GP services, 123 million were fully funded under Medicare in the 2015/16 financial year.
That equates to 85.1 per cent of visits bulk billed, compared to 84.3 per cent the previous year.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said it was a higher rate than anything achieved under a Labor government.
“Across Australia there were 17 million more bulk billed GP attendances in the last 12 months, compared to Labor’s last full year in office,” Ms Ley said.
“Medicare, that underpins universal affordable access for all Australians is continuing to work very well, to spend very well — which is good because [what] it proves is we’re making that investment, $4 billion more in Medicare over the next four years.”
Ms Ley said the Coalition had invested more than $21 billion in Medicare last year, and the party’s commitment to the service could not be questioned.
Medicare was one of the major election issues, with the Opposition arguing that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was seeking to privatise the service.
“The Medicare payment system will be managed inside Government, by Government, and continue to be delivered to every Australian by Government,” Ms Ley said.
“That’s the pledge that the Prime Minister made during the election campaign.
“It’s really bad news for Labor, that persists in trying to scare Australians that this Government is not investing in affordable health.”
Shadow Health Minister Catherine King disputed the government’s interpretation of the figures.
She said the Coalition was harming the system by keeping in place the Medicare rebate freeze.
“These statistics also ignore the fact that out-of-pocket costs have more than doubled,” Ms King said.
“GPs have the best interests of their patients at heart, and many continued to bulk bill in 2015-16.
“They had been assured the freeze would be lifted in the budget, and were watching the outcome of the election.”