Short appointments may cost more
PATIENTS whose appointments with their GPs are less than 10 minutes could face being charged an additional $20 when changes to Medicare, introduced by the Federal Government, take effect on Monday.
Where Medicare has previously paid $37.05 towards shorter appointments, it will now be paying only $16.95 for consultations lasting six to 10 minutes under changes that come into effect on January 19.
The new Medicare rate will see doctors reconsidering whether to bulk bill patients for short appointments, or instead choose to undergo longer appointments that in turn increase waiting times, Goonellabah doctor David Guest warns.
Dr Guest, who was previously chair of the Northern Rivers General Practice Network, said that as of Monday he would no longer bulk bill for short appointments for dressings, usually undertaken by a nurse with minimal doctor involvement.
He said doctors at the Goonellabah Medical Centre would also consider dropping bulk billing for vaccinations that are also usually short appointments undertaken by nurses.
"We won't be able to sustain bulk billing for short appointments under these changes," Dr Guest said.
Dr Guest said consultations under 10 minutes made up for a fifth of most practices, and the loss of the $20 refund would be significant.
"For years GPs have been promoting a model called Medical Home that saw increasing numbers of nurses incorporated into general practice - but that is now at risk with these new changes," he said.