ALLOW MEDICARE REBATES FOR REMOTE THERAPY (VIDEO CALL / TELEHEALTH) TO ALL AUSTRALIANS
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THE EDGE OF A CRISIS:
URGENT CHANGES TO MEDICARE REQUIRED TO SUPPORT ALL AUSTRALIANS’ MENTAL HEALTH THROUGH COVID-19
Here’s the situation:
The majority of psychology clients in Australia access therapy via Mental Health Care Plan rebates, making treatment much more affordable. On Friday, the government announced new COVID-19 policies for rebated psychology treatment over Skype (telehealth).
However, the new rules only apply to practitioners and clients who meet a narrow criteria and excludes the majority of Australians for whom isolation is / will soon be a reality.
What does this mean?
Therapy has just significantly increased in cost for all Australians who do not meet the strict COVID-19 criteria, but are unable to enter a practice in person - given the current trends in isolation, this will soon be a large majority.
It is currently illegal for a psychology client to claim their regular medicare rebate over a telehealth (video call) session, unless they meet a narrow criteria.
E.g. A client suffering severe depression may be required to self-isolate. If they continue therapy sessions remotely via video calls, the per-session price just increased by a minimum of $80, as they can no longer legally access a medicare rebate.
This is a stressful time when anxiety levels are high and support is needed.
What are we asking?
We ask the government to please immediately allow all Australians access to Medicare rebates for telehealth (video call) psychology sessions - and remove the bulk bill mandate.
This would not cost the government a single extra cent, but it would:
- Provide continued mental health support for all Australians
- Allow remote psychology access for all Australians during isolation
- Limit the spread of COVID-19 by discouraging face-to-face contact via in-person therapy sessions
- Protect the livelihoods of therapists during this uncertain time and the psychology industry
- Allow mental health services to pivot to telehealth immediately.
At The Indigo Project, we have taken proactive measures and reduced our rates for Skype sessions, absorbing the typical rebate fee ourselves to ensure prices do not increase for clients - but it is not fiscally viable for us to absorb this cost ongoing. This has significantly impacted the livelihoods of our therapists and our own business, and will have huge repercussions for the entire psychology industry.
Medicare must ensure continued mental health support through this time of fear and anxiety, through this simple change of the law. As it stands, exisiting mental health support systems will be eroded by current legislation.
We strongly advise the government to please make this change as soon as possible.
The Indigo Project
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Rich (Director, The Indigo Project) | firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR PRESS COMMENT:
Mary (Founder & Head Psychologist, The Indigo Project) | email@example.com
UPDATE - MARCH 25, 2020
We are making noise together and it's working.
Last night, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that changes will be coming into effect on Mon March 30 to permit telehealth mental health support via Medicare.
However, his comments implied that these new items would be for bulk-bill services only.
How You Can Help
If you haven't yet, please write to your Federal Member using the below draft as a template.
If you don't know your Federal Member, please use this tool to find their details and send them an email.
We applaud Minister Hunt for telehealth plans allowing people with mental illness to cope during this crisis while complying with new government distancing restrictions. Please thank the Minister.
By maintaining stability and continued care with their existing psychologists during this anxious time, they may avoid depression, self-harm, even suicide.
Regardless of a patient’s fee, cost to the government is fixed at the bulk bill rate.
Thus mental health remote treatment should not be restricted to bulk billed consultations only. Please encourage ministerial approval of the telehealth rebate regardless of the fee paid and remove the bulk bill mandate.
We Need To Act Now
The issue is being discussed openly at the moment and now is the time for us to enact this change before the new Medicare items are announced on Monday.
If we can lobby our government over the next few days, we may see the change we need.
A huge thanks for all of your support.
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