Government cuts extra Medicare mental health sessions

Fact Checked
Updated 13/12/2022
Government cuts extra Medicare mental health sessions

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Time to read : 2 Minutes

Government Cuts Extra Medicare Mental Health Sessions Despite Expert Advice

Yesterday the Government announced that they would not be continuing the extra 10 mental health sessions beyond December 31, 2022 this year.

Medicare holders could already get rebates on 10 their first 10 eligible mental health sessions with counsellors, therapists, and other specialists and during COVID, the government added an extra 10.

🧑🏿‍🤝‍🧑🏿 According to the ABS, two in five Australians have had a mental disorder at some point in their life.

🗓️ One in five had a 12-month mental disorder with anxiety the most common.

🤔 The decision to end the additional 10 sessions was made after a review of the University of Melbourne's independent evaluation of the Better Access program that gave Medicare rebates to eligible people who needed mental health support.

Mental health and Medicare: what you need to know

Health Minister Mark Butler claims that Better Access didn't help the regional, remote and poorer households. He said:

“The report shows Better Access is failing some Australians. Gap fees and wait times make it inaccessible and unaffordable for too many. The most disadvantaged Australians - those among us with the greatest need - have the least access to mental health services."

🔍The University of Melbourne's research showed that:

  • Remote, regional and poorer households and aged-care patients had been missing out on the rebates.

  • On average Aussies used five of the 20 sessions in 2021 – while 83% used less than 10.

But diving deeper... the report recommended noted that "the evaluation provided clear evidence that people with severe and complex mental health conditions benefit from Better Access" and noted a lot of positive outcomes.

  • Affordability was one major concern: in the first half of this year, patients were typically paying $90 per session.

  • There was a lack of affordable services covering mental health support in regional and rural areas.

  • One suggestion in the report was to improve rebates and bulk billing to those who could least afford treatment could access it.

The bottom line

Essentially, if you want additional mental health support beyond what Medicare will subsidise you'll have to pay for it next year, or at least until the government announces a new initiative.

  • Private health insurance does offer some support in the form of psychology extras and psychiatric hospital treatment but, as my colleague Eli Boroda notes, policies are often too expensive for younger Aussies.

  • If you need mental health support, the Department of Health and Aged Care recommends, the first step is to get a mental health plan from your GP. Although that may come with a cost.

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