The Number of Medicare Subsidised Counselling Sessions Per Year Doubled from 2020–2022
An MHCP is required to be eligible for a Medicare rebate to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.
In 2020, the Australian Government announced that they would provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions per year. This doubled the previously available sessions, and from 2020 to 2022, Australians had access to 20 subsidised counselling sessions per year.
The physical distancing, isolation, and financial uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic increased levels of anxiety, stress, depression, and even more severe mental illness symptoms among Australians. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s statement that mental health and suicide prevention is a “national priority” was exactly right — Australians across the nation need support on mental health services, and it has become more normalised for the average citizen to seek mental health treatment.
What is the Better Access Initiative?
This increase in subsidised therapy sessions with mental health professionals came from the Medicare Benefits Schedule, known as the Better Access initiative, which received an additional $100.8 million in funding in 2020. The Better Access initiative provided easier access to the services of psychiatrists, psychologists, and general practitioners. Better Access provided GPs with a structured framework to provide early intervention, assessment, and management of people with mental disorders and enduring mental health impacts. As such, Medicare rebates were made available for psychological treatments by registered and clinical psychologists. Under the Better Access scheme, individuals diagnosed with a mental health disorder could access up to 20 individual Medicare subsidised psychology sessions per calendar year — a huge, beneficial boost to Australian mental health support.
Unfortunately, in December 2022, the temporary Better Access program increase to subsidised therapy sessions ended, and the number of available sessions reduced back to 10 per year. However, the other benefits to Australians’ access to mental health services remained, such as the framework for medical practitioners and health professionals to provide mental health care plans. The stigma around mental health treatment has also receded greatly following the additional support from 2020–2022, and in 2023, more Australians than ever are talking about mental health and seeking the services of professional counsellors, professional counsellors, therapists, and psychologists.
What Does This Mean for You in 2023?
As of 2023, under the Better Access initiative, eligible people can receive up to 10 individual sessions in a calendar year with the partial cost of each session subsidised by Medicare.
Previously this measure was double that amount, at 20 sessions per year. The increase in subsidised sessions during the two-year period from 2020 to 2022 was intended to support psychologists’ clients as the community emerged from the pandemic.
For those who have never accessed mental health treatment under Medicare, the process remains the same. That is, to be eligible, you must be referred by your GP, a psychiatrist or paediatrician. If a GP is the referring practitioner, they will need to prepare a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP). Click here to find out how you can get a MHCP.
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