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Medicare rebates are available for psychological treatment by registered psychologists under the Australian Government's Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative. This scheme provides considerable assistance to people living with mental health problems, allowing them greater access to psychologists and providing more affordable mental healthcare.
Under this scheme individuals diagnosed with a mental health disorder can access up to 10 individual and 10 group treatment sessions per year.
What is a registered psychologist?
Psychologists study the way people feel, think, act and interact. Through a range of strategies and therapies they aim to reduce distress and to enhance and promote emotional wellbeing. Psychologists are experts in human behavior. They have studied the brain, memory, learning and human development. Psychologists can assist people who are having difficulty controlling their emotions, thinking and behaviour, including those with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, serious and enduring mental illness, addictive behaviours and childhood behaviour disorders.
All psychologists are registered with the national registration board, the Psychology Board of Australia, in the same way medical practitioners must be registered. This means that they must be competent and follow a strict Code of Conduct.
Not all counsellors or therapists are registered psychologists. Seeing someone who is registered ensures you receive high quality ethical treatment. Thinkwell Psychology specialists are registered with the APS, so you can have your peace of mind when choosing the right help.
If I have a mental health problem, how can a psychologist help me?
Psychologists are experts in providing therapies for mental health problems. These therapies are effective in treating mental health conditions including for example, anxiety, depression, alcohol use disorders and eating disorders, as well as a range of childhood problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct problems.
What mental health problems can be treated under The Better Access initiative?'Mental disorder' is a term used to describe a range of clinically diagnosable disorders that significantly impact on a person's emotions, thoughts, social skills and decision-making. The Better Access initiative covers people with mental disorders arising from:
Can I access any psychologist?Under the scheme a psychologist must be registered with Medicare and have a Medicare Provider Number in order to be able to provide services under the Better Access scheme.
Can I request a referral to a specific psychologist or does my doctor have to choose?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 have a Medicare Provider Number for you to be able to claim the Medicare rebate.
If I am already seeing a psychologist, can I access Medicare benefits?In order to receive a Medicare rebate under the Better Access initiative, you must be referred to a psychologist by an appropriate medical practitioner (GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician). The doctor must first make an assessment that you need the services of a psychologist. If you are already seeing a psychologist, discuss this with your doctor.
How many sessions with a psychologist am I entitled to?Under the Better Access initiative, eligible people can receive:
After you have reached the maximum number of allowable sessions for the calendar year you will not be eligible for any further Medicare rebates for treatment you receive from a psychologist until the new calendar year.
What will I have to pay for psychology services?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 it is likely that you will need to pay the difference between what the psychologist charges you and the Medicare rebate.
In some instances a psychologist may choose to bulk bill (i.e., aged pensioners, health care card holders), in which case you will not have to pay anything.
The payment arrangements will vary and you should check these with the psychologist before commencing your treatment.
Does the Medicare Safety Net apply to my out-of-pocket expenses?Yes. You are responsible for paying any charges in excess of the Medicare rebate. However, these out-of-pocket expenses will count towards the Medicare Safety Net.
Once you or your family reach the relevant threshold in the calendar year, Medicare benefits will increase to 100 per cent of the Government-determined schedule fee under the original Safety Net, and 80 per cent of your total out-of-pocket expenses for out-of-hospital services under the extended Medicare Safety Net. The Medicare Safety Net is designed to protect high users of health services from large out-of-pocket expenses.
Visit the Medicare website for more information on the Medicare Safety Net.
What about my private health insurance?You cannot use your private health insurance ancillary cover to top up the Medicare rebates.
You need to decide if you will use Medicare or your private health insurance ancillary cover to pay for any psychological services you receive. That is, you can either access rebates from Medicare by following the claiming process or claim where available on your insurer's ancillary benefits.
If you have any other questions regarding the Medicare funded mental health services that apply to you, please contact our friendly team today. All enquiries are handled in complete confidentiality.