This report provides additional analysis of Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) data to that available in the MBS funded services over time dashboard. It focuses on the following five key measures, calculated on an annual and monthly basis, at the national level, by Remoteness Area (RA), and by socio-economic status (SEIFA): 

  1. GP services attendance rate: the average number of GP services per person.
  2. GP subsidy rate: the percentage of the total fee charged for GP attendances that is paid by the Australian Government through the MBS.
  3. GP out of pocket rate: the percentage of GP attendances where the fees were not fully covered by the MBS and so attracted a patient ‘out of pocket’ (OOP) contribution.
  4. Average GP out of pocket costs: the average amount of patient contribution for services where the fees were not fully covered by the MBS. 
  5. Average GP out of pocket costs for all services: the average amount of patient contribution for all GP services. The GP services attendance rate has generally risen faster than population growth and population ageing over time - from an average of 3.8 services per person in 1984 to 6.8 services in 2022. In the first six months of 2023, however, the rate has declined sharply.

Over time, it appears that there is a positive correlation between service affordability and the rate that people access GP services. When the GP subsidy rate dipped to 87% in 2003, there was a corresponding decrease in the GP attendance rate. Similarly , when policies were introduced to increase the amount of money patients received for each GP service in 2004, the GP subsidy rate increased to around 91% in 2005 and the GP attendance rate also returned to its upward trend. At other times, the relationship has been less clear. 

For those patients that do incur an out of pocket (OOP) costs for a visit to the GP, the average OOP costs has been increasing overtime, from 10.80 in 1984 to 42.70 in 2022 (adjusted for inflation). In contrast over the last 12 months, the average OOP costs per GP presentation dropped by 4.5%, from $42.68 in June 2022 to $41.40 in June 2023. 

Where people live in terms of Remoteness Areas (RA) and their socio-economic status (SEIFA) also appear to be important factors affecting GP attendance rates. Major cities have maintained a much higher GP attendance rate over time than Very remote areas despite the GP subsidy rate being higher in the Very remote areas and the patient contributions much lower. Furthermore, the most advantaged socio-economic areas have had the highest average patient contributions to GP costs.

Data sources

GP attendances data

Information about the use of GP services, including the number of services provided and the amount paid by Medicare, was obtained from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) dataset, which is administered by the Department of Health and Aged Care. GP attendances include both Nonhospital and In-hospital GP presentations, as well as services rendered by a practice nurse or an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner on behalf of a GP (identified by BTOS groups: 0101, 0102, 0103 and 0110). Also, the GP attendances related to the assessment of patient suitability for the COVID-19 vaccine were included in this analysis. The MBS data in this in-focus report was extracted on 8 August 2023, which means it would contain MBS claims processed up until COB 7 August 2023. (continued) Medicare funding of GP services over time 3 Data sources (continued): 

Population data

The population statistics used in this analysis are derived from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data, which is based on the population estimates as of 30 June each year. For any month in the first half of a calendar year, the ERP corresponds to the population estimate as of 30 June of the previous year. Conversely, for any month in the second half of the year, the ERP corresponds to the population estimate as of 30 June of that same year. When the specific ERP for a particular area is not available, the most current ERP data is used.