How to fund medical costs without bulk billing

| 6 min read Uncategorized

Many general practices (GPs) are no longer bulk billing, leaving many Australians worried about affording to see the doctor when they need to. According to a new report, fewer than one in four Australian GPs provide bulk billing to all patients, with more than 500 clinics switching to private billing in 2023.

For many, bulk billing is critical to help manage conditions that many Australians live with, or for people to be able to see the GP when they fall sick. Costs don’t end once you see the doctor. Medical bills can really start adding up with GP consultations, filling prescriptions, ongoing therapies and medical specialists.

However, there are ways to fund medical costs without bulk billing, which we will explore in this article.

What is bulk billing?

For a lot of Australians, affording medical bills can be hugely challenging. Historically, bulk billing has helped to meet these high costs, as you don’t have to pay for your medical service from a health professional. For example, your doctor would bill Medicare directly for all consultation services at the same time and accept the Medicare benefit as full payment for their service.

However, many doctors and GPs say that the current Medicare rebates for GP bulk-billed services are no longer enough to cover running costs. This is something that requires an urgent fix while the health of so many Australians is at risk.

Bulk billing can cover:

  • Visits to GPs and specialists that bulk bill
  • Tests and scans, such as X-rays and pathology tests
  • Eye tests performed by optometrists

Do you have a concession or health care card? If so, you may be able to get bulk-billed services.

So what can you do if your doctor’s practice stops GP bulk billing?

Now you know how bulk billing works, it’s important to recognise the steps you need to take if your GP stops these services. Unfortunately, as a growing number of doctors say that many clinics can’t afford to provide bulk billing, the chances are high you may have to come up with a plan B.

If you’re struggling to meet the costs of your medical bills, then here are some alternative options.

Shop around

There are still clinics that practice GP bulk billing, but they may be further away or require travel time and planning to get timely appointments. If you want to find a bulk billing GP or specialist near you, then Healthdirect Australia’s service finder is a good place to start.

Plan ahead

If you know that you will need a new prescription at a certain time, plan ahead and make an appointment with a clinic that does GP bulk billing. If possible, ask for a longer prescription with more repeats to prevent having to return to the doctor to get a new prescription.

Use the Healthdirect helpline

24-hour health advice is available from Healthdirect for free. You can speak to a nurse who can provide advice about health concerns at any time by calling 1800 022 222.

Contact a support service like St Vincent de Paul Society NSW

Faith-based charities like The St Vincent de Paul Society have many years of experience helping people in need. They may be able to provide emergency funds to pay your rent and utility bills or provide temporary housing relief.

If you are struggling to make ends meet at the moment, the St Vincent De Paul Society may be able to provide you with assistance right away. If you are in NSW, call 13 18 12 to be connected with local support.

Crowdfund for medical expenses

Crowdfunding is a great solution, harnessing the reach of social media and the internet to encourage generous people to raise funds to cover your expensive medical costs. This could be anything from helping to pay for lifesaving treatment or an important scan.

A good way for friends, family and the wider community to support your situation is by starting a fundraiser on GoFundMe. By offering your support network the opportunity to fundraise for you, you get to keep more of the money that you raise.

These people are crowdfunding to cover medical expenses

Starting a crowdfunder with GoFundMe is an excellent way to cover medical costs, so you can get financial support during your time of need.

Looking for inspiration? Many Australians use crowdfunding to cover medical expenses – here, we look at a few of those stories.

Help Amani get back on his feet

Just before Amani turned nine years old, he was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer that manifested in his right leg and started spreading to his lungs. After nine months of chemotherapy and numerous extensive surgeries, Amani is now in remission.

However, as he underwent rehab, his family needed help covering medical expenses. Donations helped him to attend weekly Sand Play Therapy sessions and support a specialist education program with an Extra Lesson practitioner. Donations also helped with ongoing doctor’s fees, as his local GP didn’t bulk bill.

Let’s help our friends

Neil was diagnosed with a brain tumour and needed surgery. Despite recovering well and undergoing rehab, he suffered an increase in seizure activity and another brain scan showed that three new tumours had grown. 

Even though Neil’s surgeon offered to bulk bill the surgery, there were still costs for anaesthetics, medication, hospital bills and more relating to admission and recovery that Neil and his partner Trina couldn’t cover. All the donations they received went towards the life-saving surgery.

Miss Ilona’s journey

A student started a fundraiser for her ex-teacher, Miss Ilona, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed surgery and radiotherapy. The doctor she saw didn’t bulk bill, so she needed help to cover the costs of treatment and the bills from blood tests, heart tests and many more medical services. 

All donations helped to take some of the financial pressure off medical bills and everyday expenses while she was on her journey.

How to start a medical crowdfunder 

Do you know somebody who would benefit from the financial support provided by a crowdfunder? Or perhaps you need financial support yourself? If bulk billing to fund medical costs is no longer an option, then crowdfunding could well be the answer.

With GoFundMe, you can start a crowdfunding campaign in just a few clicks. The donations you raise could make all the difference in ensuring someone gets the treatment they need no matter the cost. Simply set up an account and create a fundraising page, so you can start receiving donations from generous Australians today.

Written by emulligan