Ballarat GP says co-payment spells the end of bulk-billing

THE owner of one of Ballarat’s largest bulk-billing medical clinics has slammed the Abbott government over budget plans to charge patients $7 to see a doctor. 

Under threat: Dr Carl Grace owns one of Ballarat’s largest bulk-billing medical clinics. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Under threat: Dr Carl Grace owns one of Ballarat’s largest bulk-billing medical clinics. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Dr Carl Grace, who owns Medicaid in Ballarat and Geelong, said on Wednesday that the “poorly thought-out” plan would spell the end for bulk-billing clinics everywhere. 

“Around this country total bulk billing practices will say ‘it’s all over, no more bulk-billing’,” he said. 

“I’ll go broke in six months... I’ve got no option.

“I simply wont be able to keep bulk-billing.”

Dr Grace’s comments came as The Courier on Wednesday revealed survey results that almost 50 per cent of respondents say a co-payment would mean they would visit the doctor less.

Last week’s federal budget confirmed free medical care would be scrapped next year, with Australians forced to pay $7 to see a doctor.

Bulk-billing could end from July this year, when the government cuts the Medicare rebate paid to GPs, pathologists and radiologists.

Dr Grace said the move was inequitable. 

“I get $36.30 for seeing a patient here, while the guys out in the suburbs charge their patients between $65 and $75,” he said. 

“So they get more than twice what I get.

“The government keeps saying to me ‘we want you to keep bulk billing, Dr Grace, but we are not going to pay you’.”

Dr Grace also expressed concern that many patients would simply refuse to pay the $7. 

“I’m sure they’re (the government) going to say I’m not allowed to take the $7 before I see them (patients),” he said. 

“And most patients will turn around after an appointment and say ‘see ya’.

“They wont pay me the $7... this just has not been thought out.”

patrick.byrne@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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