Voters back Medicare controls as bulk-billing rate falls, RPM poll shows

“I’m not going to just put more money into the existing system,” he said on ABC Radio in Tasmania.

“What everyone agrees with, I think, is we’ve got to also reform the system to make sure it provides better wraparound care for the sort of needs people have now.”

State leaders are pressing for more federal help for hospital systems or a funding boost for primary care in the hope this could ease pressure on hospital emergency departments.

A national study of GPs by healthcare director Cleanbill, reported by this masthead last Sunday, found that only 35 per cent offered fully subsidised consultations for adults.

The report found that patients in Level B consultations, which last 20 minutes or less and gain a Medicare rebate of $39.75, were paying average gap fees of $48.74 in the Melbourne bayside electorate of Macnamara and $56.25 in the eastern Sydney electorate of Wentworth.

The Australian Medical Association is seeking a higher rebate for GPs in the May budget while the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is arguing for more scope for chemists to prescribe medicines in order to cut the cost to the government when patients must visit the GP to gain repeat prescriptions.

While the government has promised to act on the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, which recommends an overhaul of primary care as well as a funding injection, experts believe a full response in the May 9 budget will cost more than the $750 million Labor pledged at the last election.

The Resolve Political Monitor surveyed 1609 eligible voters from Wednesday to Sunday, a period when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was on leave and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was focusing on the Indigenous Voice to parliament, with little debate on healthcare or the coming budget. The results have a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

When the survey asked voters if their GP offered bulk-billing, 42 said it did but 40 per cent said it did not and the remainder did not know. Asked the same question in the January survey, 47 per cent said it did and 40 per cent said it did not.

The rate of bulk-billing can be reported in several ways, such as by the number of consultations, the number of patients or the number of clinics. A government report issued in February said that 65.8 per cent of patient consultations were always bulk-billed, but this included COVID-19 vaccinations.

Butler received an expert report on the cost of fraud in the Medicare system earlier this month, after a series of reports on the problem by this masthead, leading to potential reforms such as notifying patients by text message every time the government is charged in their name.

The Resolve Political Monitor asked voters about several options to make Medicare more sustainable and allowed them to choose more than one, leading to 61 per cent supporting more regulation and oversight and 40 per cent backing a means test for benefits.

Only 8 per cent supported paying a larger gap fee, but 14 per cent favoured the idea of increasing taxes, and 25 per cent backed an increase in the Medicare levy.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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