On World Mental Health Day I want to let Australian readers know that it’s possible for a large part of psychologist fees up to 10 sessions to be be paid for by Medicare, so you only need to pay a gap rather than the whole fee.
This means that the cost of seeing a psychologist to get mental health and well-being improvement assistance should not be a barrier for most Australians.
What is Mental Health?
It’s an expression we use every day, so it might surprise you that the term ‘mental health’ is frequently misunderstood.
‘Mental health’ is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety conditions, schizophrenia, and others.
According to the World Health Organization, however, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative
The Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative aims to improve outcomes for people with a clinically-diagnosed mental disorder through evidence-based treatment.
Under this initiative, Medicare rebates are available to patients for selected mental health services provided by general practitioners (GPs), psychiatrists, psychologists (clinical and registered) and eligible social workers and occupational therapists.
Medicare rebates are available for up to 10 individual and 10 group allied mental health services per calendar year to patients who are referred by:
- A General Practitioner (Doctor) managing the patient under a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan or
- Under a referred psychiatrist assessment and management plan or
- A psychiatrist or paediatrician.
Your doctor must first assess that you require the services of a psychologist. Your doctor may allow you to request a specific psychologist or may refer you to a registered psychologist that he/she recommends. The psychologist in question must be registered and have a Medicare Provider Number for you to be able to claim the Medicare rebate.
Costs (if any)
If you do get referred to a psychologist under the Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative the cost to you will vary depending on the length of the session and the fee being charged by the psychologist.
The cost for a psychological therapy session is usually greater than the Medicare rebate, so you will need to pay the difference between what the psychologist charges you and the Medicare rebate.
In some instances a psychologists may choose to bulk bill (ie, aged pensioners, health care card holders), in which case you will not have to pay anything. This will vary and you should check this with the psychologist before commencing your treatment.
I should also mention that if you’re working for a government or medium/large private organisation then they may have a free Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help you with mental well being. EAP programs often cover a certain number of free psychologist sessions eg up to 6. If your workplace doesn’t have an EAP program, it’s possible that a member of your family works for an organisation whose EAP program covers their employee family members so check that out.
If you need mental health advice and help right now call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or View a list of Australian Mental Health advice lines and websites