You may have heard about the Medicare rebate freeze in the news, and you may be wondering how it is likely to affect your situation. Ultimately, the reality depends on the type of doctor you see and if you go to a bulk billing medical centre. Here's a look at what's happening.
What is the Medicare rebate freeze?
When you have a doctor's appointment, the doctor bills Medicare for the service, and Medicare sends a rebate for a portion of the service to the doctor. The difference between the rebate and the billed amount is left up to the patient to pay.
The government sets a Medicare repayment schedule, and doctors who adhere to the schedule are called bulk billers. The schedule has been frozen by the government, meaning repayment amounts are not going to change for several years. As a result, doctors will get reimbursed the same amount for a service they provide in 2020 as they do in 2014.
What does the freeze mean for patients?
Although the freeze keeps incoming payment amounts the same for doctors, their expenses are likely to rise, and to cover increasing rents, wages and other expenses, some doctors may raise their costs.
Which medical care centres are likely to raise their costs the most?
Large medical centres that provide a lot of pathology and diagnostic work are able to easily offer bulk billing services and absorb price increases. As a result, their prices aren't likely to change much. However, many small providers report that the government has not worked with them on bulk billing modifications, and as a result, they may have to charge up to $50 co-pays for blood tests alone.
Additionally, specialists are likely to raise their costs substantially, and some analysts expect fees of close $222.
Which medical care centres are going to be the least affected?
When asked how much they anticipate raising fees to cover the Medicare rebate freeze, bulk billing doctors have responded with the lowest numbers. In fact, one survey revealed that 57 percent of bulk billing doctors anticipate raising their fees to $10 or more, which is significantly lower than the other fees quoted. Conversely, that also means that 43 percent of bulk billing doctors are not planning to charge fees of $10 or more.
If you are worried about how the Medicare freeze is likely to affect your medical expenses, contact your medical centre to talk about it today. In most cases, you will receive the best savings if you go to a bulk billing doctor.