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  • Writer's pictureTim Sanderson

Temporary Increase in Medicare Supported Psychology Sessions

The recent Budget Announcement (2020) indicated that the number of medicare sessions would increase from 10 to 20 for a limited period of two years. A move welcomed by the Australian Psychological Society, Federal Budget: Psychologists applaud doubling of Medicare sessions & welcome focus on system reform media release 6/10/2020 APS.

Ros Knight comments in the release “People in our community who are vulnerable to mental health disorders have been falling between the cracks because they lack sufficient access to the affordable psychological treatment and care options they need.

“This year in particular with bushfires, the pandemic and now a recession, people have been pushed to the brink of their coping."

My thinking is that an increase in the reimbursement and a return to 16 sessions as was originally implemented would be a better option. For a large number of people, paying anything beyond the Bulk Billing rate is unaffordable. These are the most vulnerable people in our society, those who need psychology services but cannot afford them.

Unless someone in need can be referred to a Bulk Billing psychologist then this very serious oversight remains an issue.

The added difficulty of course is access to a psychologist in any case, if counselling is now continuing for up to twenty sessions, then that takes the psychologist out of availability. We don't have more psychologists suddenly available to meet the demand. There are other medicare funded providers for counselling of course, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers who offer counselling services. However, these professionals offering GP referred counselling are few and far between.

My practice offers Bulk Billing. If you have a GP referral then there are no out of pocket expenses. Without a referral, you may be able to claim some reimbursement from your Health Fund if you can afford one. If you can't afford to pay the gap in psychology services then your options are severely limited. Discuss this issue with your GP at the time of referral. There may be a local public mental health service in your area, but be prepared for a wait to get an appointment.

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