From 13 March to 31 December 2021, new temporary MBS telehealth items have been made available to help reduce the risk of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) and provide protection for patients and health care providers. Medicare-subsidized mental health-specific services Within the course of COVID-19, the Australian Government introduced a range of additions to the MBS to support provision of care via telehealth, to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for both patients and health care providers. This includes mental health services provided by GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists and allied health workers. The average number of services per patient AIHW shows that '10.7% of Australians (2.7 million people) accessed 12.4 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services in 2019–20. This is an increase from 6.2% of Australians in 2009–10'. And in 2019–20, nearly 1.5 million (11.8%) services were provided via telehealth. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists provided a higher proportion of Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services via telehealth than other types of providers (14.6% and 14.4% respectively), and GPs provided the lowest proportion of mental health MBS services via telehealth (8.2%). Services provided via telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic general practitioners (GPs) specialists allied health providers mental health professionals nurse practitioners Medicare for Mental health care If you are required to seek a mental health professional, you and your doctor can create a plan to treat it Your mental health treatment plan will have targets that you and your doctor have agreed to, including: treatment options support services available A mental health treatment plan allows you claim up to 20 sessions with a mental health professional each calendar year. To start with, your doctor or psychiatrist will refer you for up to 6 sessions at a time. If you require more, they can refer you for more sessions. If they bulk bill, you won’t have to pay anything. If you have private health insurance, you may be able to get some money back. Please confirm with your insurer. If you live in a remote area, it might be hard to see a mental health professional. You may be able to have a telehealth video consultation instead. You can claim for video consultation sessions with a mental health professional. Consult your GP or mental health professional if they offer this service. You can also search the find a health service tool on the health direct website for mental health telehealth services. Telehealth bulk billing for GPs According Department of Health, Between 6 April and 19 April 2020 (inclusive) the requirement to bulk bill applied to: Commonwealth concession cardholders children under 16 years old patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 However, from 20 April 2020 onwards, this is no longer a requirement for specialists and consultant physicians, nurse practitioners, midwives and allied health professionals. This means the bulk billing requirement now only applies to GP and other medical practitioners (OMP – practitioners not vocationally recognized as GPs, providing non-referred services). Bulk billing for other providers of COVID-19 services is at their discretion, provided they obtain informed financial consent prior to the service. According to McKinsey there is also a differential uptake of telehealth depending on speciality, with the highest penetration in psychiatry (50%) and substance use treatment (30%) If you want to speak to a mental health professional, we offer telehealth services with our Cyber Clinic app, allowing you to have video consults with professional mental health support. Once downloaded, you can perform a short quiz to help match yourself to the right therapist for you, plus you can take advantage of up to twenty Medicare rebatable sessions within the app.
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