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Rising Living Costs Lead to More Australians Skipping Doctor Visits

The percentage of Australians delaying or skipping GP appointments due to prices doubled in 2022-2023.

An increasing number of Australians have postponed or forgone doctor visits in the last year because of high living costs and increasing appointment prices.

According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the percentage of Australians who delayed or skipped GP (general practitioner) appointments due to high prices doubled from 3.5 to 7 percent in the 2022-23 financial year.

There was also a noticeable increase in other health services where people delayed or abandoned appointments.

“In 2022-23, data showed that 10.5 percent of people said cost was a reason for putting off or not seeing a medical specialist when needed, up from 8 percent in 2021-22,” ABS head of health statistics Robert Long said.

“People who said cost was a reason why they delayed visiting or didn’t go to a hospital when needed rose from 1.8 percent in 2021-22 to 3.2 percent in 2022-23.”

The figure for prescription medication also climbed from 5.6 percent to 7.6 percent during the period.

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Among the age groups, people aged 25-34 years were more likely to delay or skip health services than those aged 85 years and above.

Similarly, females, people with a long-term health condition, and those living in socio-economic disadvantaged areas reported higher chances of giving up medical services due to living cost issues.

Rising Prices of Doctor Appointments

In 2023, Australians have been hit with three waves of price rises for doctor appointments.

Since Nov. 1, patients across the country have been charged $102 (US$67) for a standard non-bulk billed GP appointment, up from $98 in July and $90 in March.

This was the result of the Australian Medical Association’s recommendation, which suggested GPs raise their consultation fees to cover the growing costs of running a clinic.

With the latest round of price increases, patients with Medicare coverage need to pay an “out of pocket fee” of over $60.

However, millions of Australians also received price relief from the federal government when it announced a three-time increase in bulk billing incentives for GPs who provide services to vulnerable patients from Nov. 1.

Healthcare Labour Shortages

The ABS’s data comes as the federal government has launched a review into the way Australia recruits and places international doctors to deal with labour shortages in the healthcare sector.

The review will examine how the government could improve policies and programs to provide Australians with greater access to health professionals outside urban areas.

While Health Minister Mark Butler said the government intended to allow more foreign doctors to work in more GP clinics, he noted that there was no “silver bullet” to a global shortage of doctors and nurses.

“I mean it’s much quicker than training a whole lot of new Australian doctors, which takes more than a decade,” he told ABC Radio.

“What we need to do is look at a whole range of things that will ensure we have the best possible mix of health workers across all of our communities and deal with some of the long-standing inequities that afflict particularly communities outside our major cities.”

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