The Canberra Liberals have unveiled a plan to encourage GPs to bulk bill more patients by cutting surgeries’ business costs.
- ACT GPs are the least likely in Australia to bulk bill patients
- Canberra Liberals want to cut surgeries’ business costs to encourage them to lower fees
- Labor says, if it is re-elected, it will offer low-cost loans to help private schools adopt renewable energy
ACT GPs charge more, on average, than doctors in all other states and territories, and are the most likely in the country to ask patients to pay an extra fee on top of the government-funded Medicare rebate.
Liberal leader Alistair Coe said that, if his party won office after next month’s election, his government would “ensure” that more GP practices provided services with no out-of-pocket costs, through a targeted business-assistance program.
The program would aim to increase bulk-billing rates and opening hours by offering incentives such as reduced commercial rates, energy rebates and “other forms of business assistance”.
The Productivity Commission has reported that Canberrans are twice as likely as other Australians to put off seeing a doctor due to the high fees.
Mr Coe said his party’s plan would save the average Canberra family more than $200 a year.
“No one should compromise their health because they cannot afford healthcare,” he said.
The Australian Medical Association’s ACT president, Antonio Di Dio, said this morning the plan sounded “intriguing”, but without further details he was unsure whether it would likely reduce costs.
“We’re looking forward to finding out what that policy entails,” he told ABC Radio Canberra.
Dr Di Dio said many doctors’ incomes had fallen significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
While the main costs GP surgeries faced were rent and staff wages, he said the critical problem was the government rebate of $38.10 for a standard session with a patient — an amount that had barely increased in a decade.
“In order to see a patient, it costs you about $50 … and if you bulk bill them you actually lose about $12,” he said.
“So if you bulk bull all your patients, you will very quickly go broke.”
Labor offering schools help to go green
Meanwhile, ACT Labor has announced it will offer loans to non-government schools to help them adopt renewable energy.
If the Government is re-elected, schools will be able to access up to $200,000 in low-interest loans to install solar panels, battery storage and hot-water heat pumps.
The plan expands on a commitment Labor made to provide zero-interest loans for households to make similar upgrades.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that scheme would create 1,200 jobs in Canberra.
“By extending a similar low-interest scheme to non-government schools, we will be able to create even more local jobs,” he said.
The loan scheme would be offered in addition to $15 million in infrastructure grants for non-government schools.
Labor has also pledged grants for parent associations at non-government schools, to help parents engage with their school community.
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