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Monday, June 21, 2021

Liberals vow to increase bulk billing services

The Canberra Liberals have pledged further gap-free and after-hours GP services in the ACT, and an average saving of $200 annually for Canberra families.

In the election promise, the party details targeted business assistance programs for Canberra GPs to incentivise bulk billing and extended opening hours, through energy rebates and business assistance.

Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe said his party was aware many Canberra families had been reassessing their finances due to COVID-19.

“No-one should compromise their health because they cannot afford healthcare,” he said.

“That’s why we’re committed to doing everything we can to reduce cost of living pressures to help more stressed Canberra families get ahead. 

“Saving the average family $200 on trips to the doctor will act as a key stimulus measure to give household budgets a shot in arm in the immediate term.”

Productivity Commission Report on Public Services – Health shows Canberra has the second highest average nationally of residents deferring GP trips due to cost.

Canberra Liberals spokesperson for health Vicki Dunne said increasing bulk billing rates would not only reduce costs for families but would also reduce pressure on the health system. 

“The high cost of living in Canberra has too many people avoiding a trip to the doctor because it’s simply too expensive,” she said.

“The knock-on effect of this is more people neglecting their health and more people in the emergency department which is already under extraordinary pressure.”

However, ACT Labor health spokesperson Rachel Stephen-Smith said decisions from the Federal Liberal Government, including reducing the bulk billing incentive in outer-metro areas from January this year, had contributed to the problem.

“Now they’re making an announcement with no detail and no evidence that it will actually have any impact on bulk billing rates,” she said.

“Every year, the ACT Labor Government invests more than $4 million to support access to primary care, including the Canberra Afterhours Locum Medical Service (CALMS) and services for the most vulnerable Canberrans.”

The ACT Greens were contacted for comment.

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