Ipswich GP Dr Jim Tankey with patient Allan Summers.
Ipswich GP Dr Jim Tankey with patient Allan Summers.

Doctors for nothing, checks for free: Bulk billing spikes

THE number of Australians seeing their doctor without paying anything is reaching its highest levels on record.

New Medicare figures, to be released today, reveal GP bulk-billing numbers rose by 0.5 per cent to 85.9 per cent for the three months to September.

It is the highest number for the September quarter since Medicare began more than three decades ago.

It follows a record 85.7 per cent of patients using a bulk-billing doctor in the 2016-17 financial year. Doctor visits are typically higher in the middle of the year due to flu season.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the figures highlighted how much Australians were taking advantage of the investment in Medicare.

"This is ... significantly higher than Labor's 82.2 per cent when they were last in Government," Mr Hunt said.

"And we're spending more than ever before on Medicare - with record funding increasing each and every year from $23 billion in 2017-18, to $24 billion, to $26 billion to $28 billion in 2020-21.

"Last financial year, Australian patients received an additional 21 million bulk-billed GP visits compared with Labor's last year in Government in 2012-13 - an increase of more than 20 per cent."