Psychologists say limited Medicare rebate 'shuts out' patients
By Julie Power
Ahead of the federal government's mental health plan expected today, the Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi) has warned that the high costs of accessing mental health is "shutting out" patients when they need care the most.
Suicides directly related to the economic shutdown and the associated distress could outstrip direct deaths from the coronavirus by 10 times, it warns.
The association's executive director Tegan Carrison has called for the rebate to be increased and extended to cover more sessions.
Patients who are already under a high degree of stress are only able to claim about half of the cost of visit back from Medicare, she said.
Currently, visits to registered psychologists, about 70 per cent of all those practising, are rebated $86.15 for a 50-minute session. In contrasts, visits to clinical psychologists are rebated at $126.50, more than $40 for the same session.
"The current Medicare rebate amount does not reflect the reality of costs of delivering services today. And many clients cannot afford these out of pocket expenses, so do not seek the help they need, when they need it,"Ms Carrison said.
This has created an unfair disadvantage today for the clients of registered psychologists, the association argues.
"If the government is serious about making mental health a priority, then the rebate amount for all psychology services needs to be urgently increased. We also need to increase the number of allowable sessions under a mental health plan, to begin addressing the national mental health crisis."
Under the existing Medicare Benefits Schedule two-tier bulk billing system, psychologists in Australia are rebated at two significantly different rates depending on whether they are classified as a ‘registered’ or ‘clinical’ psychologist.
All psychologists have undertaken six years of training before qualifying as a registered psychologist. The association says a large number of registered psychologists have completed more formal education and training with a greater number of years of practice, than many clinical psychologists.