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Feds asked to consider GP freeze deal

AAP logoAAP 28/09/2016 Belinda Merhab

Doctors will ask Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to consider a compromise deal to partially lift the Medicare rebate freeze, warning 70 per cent of GPs will hike fees in the next year.

Bulk-billing rates have plummeted 10 per cent since July as a result of the freeze, according to figures from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

They now want the federal government to consider lifting it for GP consultations only, insisting it would cost the federal budget just $150 million annually to prevent patients being slugged higher fees to see the doctor.

They've already pitched the idea to Health Minister Sussan Ley and will discuss it with Mr Turnbull at a meeting in October.

They're also seeking a meeting with Treasurer Scott Morrison.

"It's very clear when we spoke to Minister Ley she has done the numbers as well in terms of how much it would cost and her numbers are the same as we have," RACGP president-elect Bastian Seidel told AAP on Thursday.

"It's not a lot of money considering the impact it would have on funding general practice properly."

Ms Ley will travel to Perth to address the RACGP annual conference as she continues her bid to repair the government's relationship with doctors after the controversial freeze almost cost the coalition the July federal election.

In the meantime, the RACGP has ramped up its campaign against the freeze with fresh television ads warning patients they are paying more to see the doctor as a result.

It launched an unprecedented campaign against the freeze in the lead-up to the July 2 election, including television ads and posters in doctors' surgeries.

The television ads were paused for several weeks after the election but resumed two weeks ago out of frustration at the government's inaction on lifting the freeze.

The RACGP says bulk-billing rates are sitting at 70 per cent and are set to tumble fast over the next 12 months as the frozen rebate leaves doctors struggling to keep up with rising fees.

Doctors accuse the federal government of touting misleading Medicare figures when it insists bulk-billing rates are at record highs.

Two-thirds of their 33,000 members are moving towards mixed billing over the next year, meaning some patients, including pensioners, would still be bulk-billed but those who can afford it will be charged higher fees, Dr Seidel said.

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