- On 30/08/2016
Weighing up whether to transition to private billing is a big decision. There are some benefits and challenges to changing your practice model. Here are some things to think about:
Many GPs who choose to privately bill their patients, do in fact, bulk bill a percentage of their patients, and privately bill the rest. How GPs decide on which patients to bulk bill and which patients to charge varies. For example – children and OAPs may be bulk billed, while other patients pay a fee on top of the rebate. Alternatively, GPs may choose to charge over and above the rebate for appointments outside of certain working hours.
One of the benefits of privately billing patients is that it takes off the pressure to get patients in and out the door as quickly as possible. It allows for a potentially longer consult for each patient and allows doctors the opportunity to focus on providing quality patient care.
Drop in patients
GPs often report a small reduction in patient numbers after introducing a private fee. Experts recommend you expect a 10% decrease in patient numbers. From a financial perspective, a practice would maintain its operating position from a lower base of patients, with those patients paying a higher rate.
The ongoing Medicare freeze is forcing the hand of many doctors to introduce private billing. A recent survey of more than 500 doctors by the RACGP found 29% were transitioning away from bulk billing.
Bulk billing indicator
While we often hear that bulk billing rates have continued to rise, some health commentators indicate the bulk billing indicator is being misinterpreted. The bulk billing rate is based on services rather than at a patient level, ie 84% of services are bulk billed, not 84% of patients are bulk billed. Rising GP bulk billing rates could be a reflection of the broadened access to the MBS and growth of health services (family planning clinics, not-for-profit rehabilitation centre, refugee health centres, etc)
See if private billing is for you
The billing model that you choose will depend on a range of factors. Future Practice and the AMA NSW have developed a web tool to quickly and easily test the long-term financial sustainability of your practice. Check your practice now: