The majority of GPs do not overcharge you for their invaluable care

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Doctors across the country woke up Monday to this masthead’s joint investigation with the ABC covering “Medicare rorts” claiming to cost taxpayers billions. It was a day of despair for most of us physicians. Not because of what you might expect – a fear of auditing or a decrease in revenue. We are desperate because of what it means for our reputation. Because, at the heart of it all, most of us really care about you, our patient, and our ability to heal. Not what we earn to take advantage of the healthcare system.

“It takes years to qualify for Medicare on your own. Most of us take this very seriously, because with privilege comes responsibility.Credit:Pierre Braig

Public distrust of our profession has been simmering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago, we were applauded in our scrubs. Now we get our eyes rolled when we ask you to keep wearing your mask in our clinics, for your protection (and ours). Comments about the influence of big pharma on our prescribing choices have multiplied. This is not just about a COVID-19 pandemic, but misinformation about what we stand for as a group.

Doctors are often at the top of lists of high earners, but know that most of us don’t fall into that category. Most of us don’t do this work for the money – GPs, in fact, earn only slightly more than train drivers. There are much easier and faster ways to earn a good living.

Our training is brutal, no matter the specialty. Whether we become general practitioners or interventional cardiologists, we make hard and tireless sacrifices to achieve brotherhood. We sacrifice our youth. We sacrifice our social life. We sacrifice friends. We sacrifice our family time. We sacrifice our own health.

So why are we doing this? I say, the influence of the three Es. Those who fight for equality, those who are driven by ego and empaths.

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Accessing Medicare is not easy. It takes years to be able to claim Medicare on your own. Most of us take this very seriously, because with privileges come responsibilities.

Of course, there are those not so well-meaning, as in all professions, who are driven by the fourth E – economy. I was ashamed to hear the stories of those who aimed to outsmart the system. It is encouraged in some circles. But of course, like all things, there is an array of harm. Basically, we read that a practitioner was charging for deaths – it’s atrocious. But it’s so far from the norm that our profession as a group shouldn’t be tainted with the same taint.

What the survey article failed to mention was that the evidence showed that many of us were undercharging. I can confirm this. For example, in general medicine, a patient who takes 50 minutes to discuss his complex trauma. The most appropriate code is for a 20 minute mental health consultation. We cannot charge anything more.

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