In welcoming the announcement that the Albanese Government is delivering on their election commitment to restore bulk billed video telehealth psychiatry consultations, through a $47.7 million investment in the October 2022-23 Budget the Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips said many local people on the NSW South Coast shared distressing stories with her about the loss of bulk billed telepsychiatry services.
“These services should never have been removed – it has had a detrimental impact on the mental health of many people in regional areas, so I am delighted to see that support made available once more.”
From 1 November, Australians living in rural and regional areas and other eligible patients will once again have easier and more affordable access to critical mental health supports.
The Member for Gilmore said “In December 2021, the Morrison Government cut the ability for psychiatrists to deliver bulk billed telehealth consultations, in rural and regional areas.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, people in rural and regional Australia had higher rates of mental health related hospitalisation and suicide than those living in cities. The cut of the previous loading meant many patients were forced to pay gap fees or give up treatment and some psychiatrists ceased to provide services in rural areas.
“The funding will restore a 50 per cent fee loading to bulk billed Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) psychiatry services delivered by video telehealth, meaning more patients can access support free of charge.
“Reinstating additional Medicare support for telehealth psychiatry mental health consultations is expected to support approximately 410,000 consultations over 4 years, and approximately 543,000 consultations over 5 years.
Above: Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips with The Hon. Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care - File photo
The Hon. Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, said “The former Government’s cuts to regional mental health consultations during a pandemic were unconscionable. “Our rural and regional communities have endured drought, bushfires, floods and the impacts of COVID-19 in recent years – a perfect storm of factors that have taken a significant toll on people’s mental health.
“The Albanese Government is restoring these vital mental health services, making them affordable and accessible to people wherever they live.”
Adding her voice to the announcement The Hon. Emma McBride MP, Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health and Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention said:
“This announcement will make a significant difference in the lives of people who live outside major cities, in rural and regional communities, as well as First Nations Australians and aged care residents.” “Reinstating this Medicare rebate for bulk-billed video psychiatry consultations will help thousands of Australians to access the support they need for their mental health and wellbeing.”