82% of GP appointments bulk-billed

AUSTRALIANS saved more than $18 billion in fees to see the doctor in the past year, the latest Medicare bulk billing figures revealed on Tuesday.

The quarterly Medicare statistics showed 82% of all general practitioner appointments were charged to bulk billing - a record high for the government subsidy.

While the published quarterly data only goes back as far as 2007, it showed the Federal Government spent $18.4 billion subsidising doctor fees in the year since March 2012.

It showed benefits paid for both services in and out of hospital reached $4.8 billion in the December quarter last year, up from $4.3 billion in the March quarter.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the government believed all Australians should have access to quality and affordable health care.

"While bulk billing rates can fluctuate, the government is pleased bulk billing rates for GP services have returned to record highs set mid last year," she said.

The data revealed 77% of all Medicare services were charged to bulk billing - or an equivalent of 88 million visits or doctor consultations.

While the figures show a rise in the number of health services charged, the number of such services available in outer regional, regional and remote areas was smaller than metropolitan areas.

However, the majority of bulk billing services across each regional classification was in line with lower rates of population in such areas.

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