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. While we at Indigo will be absorbing these rebate fees so our clients are not affected, we know this is not possible for all mental health practices, and will not be sustainable in the long term.
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 choosing 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.
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.