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Australia’s Medicare Budget Cuts for Psychologists


There was both bitter and sweet news in this month’s Federal Budget for all Australians suffering mental health issues.  While it is most prudent that the Labor Government is placing much needed funding for people suffering severe mental health issues in low socio-economic, rural and indigenous areas with their early intervention programmes, Headspace Centres for youths and Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres, this comes at a cost of cutting back the number of sessions available to patients under the Medicare Better Access Initiative with psychologists, both clinical and registered.

These have been sharply reduced from 12 sessions with an additional 6 for exceptional circumstances to 6 sessions with an additional 4 for exceptional circumstances, the Government rationale being, that people who see clinical psychologists suffer from a mild to moderate form of mental illness rather than a severe one.  Here is a section taken from the Federal Budget 2011.

The new arrangements will ensure that the Better Access initiative is more efficient and better targeted by limiting the number of services that patients with mild or moderate mental illness can receive, while patients with advanced mental illness are provided more appropriate treatment through programs such as the Government’s Access to Allied Psychological Services program.

The assumption appears to be that metropolitan psychologists treat the “worried well” of the middle class.  Politics aside, cutting back on the number of sessions will be detrimental both mentally and financially for ALL people seeking psychological help through psychologists.

Since 2006, thanks to the Medicare Better Access Initiative, I have been able to afford to see my therapist and now consider myself to be a mentally well person. There is no way I could afford to see my clinical psychologist without this assistance. Ten sessions as opposed to eighteen would have been woefully inadequate.  During this time I have had many crises which we dealt with more than efficiently. Without her help I would have ended up in an emergency ward and a financial burden on the public hospital system which would have cost the taxpayer much, much more than the Medicare rebate. My life has since turned around and I am now a psychology student and a part-time peer worker within the mental health field.

I have also been a member of private health insurance for seventeen years.  Since 1994 the rebate, which is one third of an average clinical psychologist fee, has not increased.  This is partly due, I feel, because the Medicare Better Access Initiative was introduced in 2006 by the previous government.  Now, as it stands, we have neither the full Medicare Initiative nor adequate private health insurance rebates.

With the Budget cutbacks and lack of rebate increases by health funds, psychological care for mentally ill patients will be either financially crippling for the average person and/or their family or their mental illness will go untreated.

What I am asking Australian readers of Psych Central to do is to please lobby your Federal and Local Ministers for Mental Health and write/email them asking the Labor Government to please reconsider and reverse their decision to cut back on Medicare rebates for all psychologists.

Here are some contact links.

Mark Butler, Federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing.

http://www.markbutler.net.au/contact-mark

Helen Morton, Western Australian Minister for Mental Health and Disability Services.

http://www.premier.wa.gov.au/Ministers/Helen-Morton/Pages/Contact-The-Minister.aspx

Eddie Bartnik, Western Australian Commissioner for Mental Health.

http://www.mentalhealth.wa.gov.au/contact.aspx

For all other states and territories, please google your Local Minister for Mental Health for their contact details.

Please also consider also writing/emailing your private health insurance fund and asking them if they have any intention of increasing their rebates for psychological services in the wake of the Budget cuts.

There is much people power in numbers and the more clients and patients write, email or even phone their Ministers and private health insurance funds the more chance decision reversal and positive change will occur.

As well, there is a campaign by GetUp (the people who organised for the lawns of Canberra’s Parliament House to be covered in candles spelling out “fund hope for mental health”) to reverse the Budget cuts.  You do not have to be a member of GetUp to vote and you can leave a comment here if you wish.

http://suggest.getup.org.au/forums/60819-campaign-ideas/suggestions/1833821-better-access-to-psychologists?utm_campaign=ShortUrls&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=suggest.getup.org.au

There is also a petition which is well worth signing, by Ben Mullings of Western Australia, which will eventually be presented to the Health Minister of Australia.

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/better-access-to-psychologists.html

We owe this to ourselves and each other if we are to live with better and greater mental health.

Australia’s Medicare Budget Cuts for Psychologists


Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.


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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2019). Australia’s Medicare Budget Cuts for Psychologists. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/unplugged/2011/05/australias-medicare-budget-cuts-for-psychologists/

 

Last updated: 30 Mar 2019
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