Minister slashes Medicare sessions in half

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Federal Government to Limit Access to Psychology Services to 10 Sessions Per Calendar Year

For many years, the number of psychology sessions Australians could access under the Medicare Better Access Program per calendar year was capped at 10. This arbitrary limit is insufficient for adequate treatment and has no regard for a person’s circumstances or treatment needs. As part of the former Federal Government’s COVID-19 initiative, the number of psychology sessions a person could access via Medicare in a calendar year was increased to 20 from 2020-2022. Many Australians, young and old, have benefited greatly from this initiative.
National bodies representing psychologists and mental health consumers, along with many individual psychologists, consumers, and politicians, have advocated strongly and extensively for these items to be retained. Dr. Collins is one of these advocates.
An extensive evaluation of the Better Access program by the University of Melbourne, released on 12 December, recommended that the additional 10 sessions be retained. However, on 12 December, the current Minister for Health, Mark Butler, announced that from 1 January 2023 the Australian Government will slash Medicare sessions for psychology from 20 to 10 sessions per year.

Response to the Government’s Decision

This decision has been strongly criticised by consumer groups, peak psychology professional bodies, and politicians.

Dr. Marjorie Collins has written a media release in response, stating:

Minister Butler announced yesterday that Medicare rebated sessions for psychology will be slashed from 20 to 10 sessions from 1 January 2023. He claims to base this decision on the outcomes of an in-depth evaluation of the Better Access Scheme (BA). But, he has misrepresented the findings of that evaluation which shows that more sessions led to better outcomes for those who accessed them, with people with moderate to severe mental health conditions benefiting the most. The taxpayer-paid evaluation recommended, on the basis of evidence, that 20 sessions remain. The minister has ignored recommendations from the findings and cherry-picked statistics to suit his ideology. Psychologists are not able to provide effective therapy with only 10 sessions. It’s equivalent to cutting one’s chemotherapy part way through
treatment. It defies logic and doesn’t align with the evidence. The mental health of Australians will be compromised as a consequence of this ill-considered decision.
In an ABC News article, Suicide Prevention Australia chief executive Nieves Murray said she feared the changes would prevent people seeking help. "The decision to remove extra mental health supports at a time when interest rates are rising, housing pressure is growing and distress is high is baffling and very concerning," she said.

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