10 Additional Medicare Subsidised Psychological Therapy Sessions People Subjected to Further Restrictions in Areas Impacted C19


The Australian Government will provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 August 2020
Media type: Media release
Audience: General public

The Australian Government will provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental health and suicide prevention remains one of our Government’s highest priorities, and this Government recognises the mental health impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on individuals and communities, particularly those in areas such as Victoria, where regrettable but necessary measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus.

The additional Medicare subsidised sessions will allow people in eligible areas who have used their 10 sessions to continue to receive mental health care from their psychologist, psychiatrist, GP or other eligible allied health worker.

The new items will apply to people subject to public health orders restricting their movement within the state or territory issued at any time from 1 July 2020 to 31 March 2021, and to people who are required to isolate or quarantine under public health orders.

Patients will be required to have a Mental Health Treatment Plan and a review with their GP to access the additional sessions. This measure will commence on Friday 7 August and be available until 31 March 2021.

Our Government has responded early and rapidly to address the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures needed to contain it, announcing more than $500 million additional funding for mental health and suicide prevention since January, including Medicare subsidies for telehealth consultations.

The $7.3 million in additional support recognises that many people in areas impacted by the second wave of the pandemic will be facing increased emotional and mental stress.

This will ensure that Australians can continue to access essential mental health treatment and support at this difficult time.

The Australian Government continues to demonstrate its firm commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians, with estimated expenditure for mental health services and suicide prevention to be more than $5.2 billion in 2019-20.

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  • This should be pinned to the top of the site. Probably much more likely to help than retail therapy.
    A lot of people need the help right now.

    • 100% agree, hope mods dont move it to forums

    • -7 votes

      Probably much more likely to help than retail therapy.

      I doubt that very much. That's one of the main causes of the increase in mental health issues in these times.

      Unforgettably, we can't remove the cause, so instead we treat the symptoms.

    • Unfortunately, it's not that helpful and akin to throwing money at the problem.

      • Psychologists can't help people??????

      • Allows families to rack up 100's of 1,000's in debt by letting house prices go to the moon through negative gearing and record low interest rates. Can't lose as long as you're working…

        Heavily indebted families are the first to go backwards in a down turn when they're forced out of work.

        Debt becomes un-serviceable and family fractures/defaults.

        Give them free psychology as a consolation.



        How long until they realise preventative measures are cheaper than subsidies/handouts that give future generations mountains of debt.

        • Preventive measures are cheaper. But right now we are where we are. People are struggling and need support

          • @pramki: Just for the record I completely support this initiative. Just the lack of foresight that led to people getting into these situations is terrible. And now it'll cost tax payers more (future generations).

        • preventative measures

          Yes, what preventative measures could the Australian government have undertaken when the Chinese Communist Party scumbags lied through their teeth, killed their own doctors just to save face which resulted in this pandemic?

          Wet markets (which is where this virus came from) are still operating in China to this day when they should be completely banned.

          • @DoctorCalculon: Where to start,
            The previous GFC Australia fared well with little to no mortgage defaults because the government hadn't let policy run away, resulting in unsustainable House prices and debt. We still had room for interest rates to go down back then.

            And if we're making this about covid, this acted as a catalyst, we were already in a recession.
            Now the future of Australia is paying for it. Basically its as if your dad took out a loan to buy a timeshare, then handed it onto you.

            Thanks dad!

            So in short, yes we could have prevented the financial stress many are experiencing.

          • @DoctorCalculon: I agree with the first point, I but there's nothing wrong with wet markets, they're just what we call farmer's markets.

            • @tightwad:

              what we call farmer's markets

              I was referring to the practice of selling animals like bats, pangolins, etc. which allowed this pathogen to jump across species.
              In any case, I don't think anything will change. So, we will continue to see more deadly viruses coming out of China.


              • @DoctorCalculon: "DoctorCalculaton" We have have hunting/eating raw meat/wet markets/unhygienic kitchen habbits( according to modern science ) for Thousands of Years now and we are all still here, seven Billion of us.

                Is it also not also modern science that says there are now too many of us as a Scourge on this planet.

                Use your Natural common sense and Wake Up.

    • Most people taking advantage of these visits (me included) would be monitored by a GP and the GP should be aware of this (if they are even a half decent GP). The GP still would have to sign off for the visits.

  • So this means you can avoid the gap on 10 GP sessions?

    • Currently your GP can refer you to a psychologist for treatment and medicare will then subsidise the psychologist's bill for up to 10 sessions in a 12 month period. This is called the 'Better Access' program. These sessions get chewed up fast if you really need help and see someone every week.

      This announcement basically means medicare will subsidise an additional 10 sessions (bringing the total to 20) for people in Vic.

    • No, this is for psychologist visits which don't have any Medicare rebate unless you have a plan from your Dr. Normally the maximum number of rebated visits is 10, this doubles that number.

    • Not quite.

      Although there are a small number of bulk-billed psychology practices (i.e., if you have a MHCP, you pay nothing out of pocket), most practices are unable to sustain themselves under this model. 90% of practices involve a gap payment, but the MHCP reduces the overall cost significantly. The out-of-pocket cost usually amounts to $80-$120.

      Additionally, while there are some great clinicians at bulk-billed practices, sometimes you do 'get what you pay for'.

      • I wonder why "most practices are unable to sustain themselves" when actually many other psychs will work on a no gap basis. I think $80 per hour is a decent rate of pay. Maybe you don't want to fill all of your time slots at $80 per hour, and that's fine, but I'd call BS on psychs that would argue they absolutely cannot see any no gap clients because it's "unsustainable". More like "no thanks I'd prefer to be paid $220 per hour".

        • They have to pay rent on their building, pay the salaries of the receptionist/s, pay membership to their association, pay for insurance, etc. Probably very little of that $80 is actually able to be taken as their salary.

          • @Quantumcat: that's called "costs of business" and I don't see it being any different from any other job. they want big money on the back of people in distress.

            • @flipflapflop: It isn't big money if every patient has no gap. They'd be barely making ends meet. And if anything went wrong (eg insurance claim that they need to pay excess on, or get sick and can't work for a month) they'd go under as there would be no buffer. I don't think you're able to appreciate the numbers. It would be great if everyone would work as a charity and not worry about keeping themselves or their staff fed but it isn't exactly sustainable.

              • @Quantumcat: I DO very well understand the numbers.
                And at the recommended rate set by the APS of $246 for a 50 minute consultation I don't think we are talking "charity".
                Every job deserve a descent wage, but between a shrink's $295.20 per hour rate and the minimum wage of $19.84, there is a world that even MHCP rebate of $128.40 doesn't fill up.

                • @flipflapflop: They aren't getting $246 to spend though. Not only there's the outgoings but there is time being spent on admin that isn't charged to anyone. You can't compare the incomings of a salaried employee to someone running a business. If you owned and ran a restaurant you wouldn't say you were making $200/table times ten tables per 2 hours = $1000/hour would you. You would be paying your staff, your rent, the food, the insurance etc from that money plus the hours before and after setting up and packing up each night and the hours spent on bookkeeping. You can't say what is reasonable to charge and what is not unless you know exactly what the outgoings are.

                  • @Quantumcat: I can't believe you are trying to lecture me on how to run a business…

                    Keep crying for the poor shrinks financial situation (or maybe yourself) and down mark me if you wish. I hope that makes your poor day a glowing day.

                  • @Quantumcat: most psychologist's don't charge $250 an hour, more like $150… psychiatrists are a different ballgame though, I think they charge too much.

              • @Quantumcat: My excellent psychologist manages on bulk bill alone. So it can be done.

                • @Sunrise Moon: Are they in an office where everyone else also bulk bills? Probably there are others bringing in more money that keeps the business afloat

                  • @Quantumcat: She works out of two offices, 1 I know nothing about and the other is a medical office with I believe 4 doctors and I think the Majority, if not all patients are bulk billed. It does take months of waiting to see her, she is that busy… and that GOOD!!!

                • @Sunrise Moon: How many worker’s comp cases do they have on their books? That’s where the $$ comes in to supplement the bulk billers.

        • Do you really think they get to keep the whole $80? Not even close. Open a clinic and see how much you are left with after staff wages, rent, and all the regular businesses expenses. You are also not guranteed to have a patient every hour of the working day.
          You'd be lucky to remain in business for long if that's all you are charging.

          • @simmomelb: Of course they don't get to keep the whole $80, you don't need staff unless you have a shared office, in which case the rent is split.

            Telehealth means you can often work from home, less need for rent. And one should be using shared offices anyway, why rent a consultation room 24/7 if you use it 4/5.

            You could remain in business just fine, might not be as comfortable, but hey, I'm not saying what they should do. In fact, I'd probably make no more than 20% of my positions no gap. But I wouldn't cry poor as the reason for it. I'd admit it's because I'd rather have more money than less money. And I feel like 20% is plenty for me to be able to sleep at night.

      • My wife is a bulk billing clinical psychologist who specialises in kids whom I believe is very good (though obviously I am biased). She does charge $5-10 out of pocket just to help the individual to be more committed (needs some skin in the game).

        She can only afford this as she works for her self (as opposed to a clinic that takes a big cut). You don't make a killing but you feel good about it.

        Beauty of this COVID thing is it is actually increasing accessibility for rural who were previously struggling for access - as now medicare healthcare plan isn't restricted by geographic location - i.e. can cover remote consultations via video conferencing.

    • There ARE psychologists that accepts no gaps, simply ask them.

      And instead of visiting clinics, you will have more luck seeking them out directly through APS directory: https://www.psychology.org.au/Find-a-Psychologist

      Call/text/email them your questions and your concerns, they are professionals and will response to you professionally.

      • The difficulty is more in regional areas. I've never looked for psychologist, but bulk billed GP appointments are much harder to get in rural areas than in inner city Melbourne. I'd imagine it's similar for psychologists, perhaps worse due to lower numbers.

        • Not only that, the wait time is often shocking too. If the psychologists require a few weeks or months wait even with the fee, what's the point of bulk billing for them

    • Technically correct isn't always the best kind of correct.

      • -10 votes

        Stop being so sensitive. It's a good joke. In hindsight, it is the government's incompetency in the first place .

        • I thought it was lame.
          But you know, do you.

        • In hindsight, it is the government's incompetency in the first place

          Is it? Why are people seeing psychologists in the first place? Why are they needing it more now during this pandemic?

          The Australian Government will provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

          So how are the further restrictions impacting these people?

          One reason you'll find is concern in regards to their job (or more specifically keeping income). In regards to their job, their concern could be keeping it (closures, retrenchments) or because of having to go to work during the pandemic - some employers are refusing to allow staff to work from home, even if they could.

          So is this the governments fault?

    • +6 votes

      You need a referral. Anyone can ask for one, so technically, not targetted.

  • Does this just apply to Vic as no where else has really received any public health orders that would impact movement?

    Just think it would be good to get a good definition of what 'eligible' means.

    • "…any time from 1 July 2020 to 31 March 2021, and to people who are required to isolate or quarantine under public health orders…"

      They appear to be covering other potential instances in the future, and the isolation / quarantine could be anywhere I suppose.

    • This is how I read it, CMIIW:

      • Applied to Victoria as it's officially the "region subjected to further restrictions"
      • This announcement may apply to other states/regions depends on bad things went over the next several months
      • "apply to people subject to public health orders restricting their movement within the state or territory", I taken this may currently apply to people outside of Victoria, but under impact of movement restriction due to COVID? Such as under quarantine, requires to travel interstate but cannot etc.
    • There’s about to be restrictions on people living in the border zones. Both NSW and QLD residents living in the NSW/QLD border zones are restricted from travelling outside the NSW border zone if they want to be allowed into QLD. While they are permitted to enter QLD for any reason, they are also restricted to the border zone in QLD.

  • There is still out of pocket expenses.

    To be clear - this is not a free service - just subsidised.

    Depending on the psychologist you will still be paying $100+ per visit.

    Neg away but this belongs in the forums as an awesome PSA. I suspect those on a care plan will be made aware at some stage.

    • Plenty of bulk billers around. Or have they got greedy and decided to charge for COVID?

      • It's not about being greedy. If I bulk bill as a psychologist, I'm going to burn out. I could be earning more at my old Kmart job. Don't get me wrong, I bulk bill some clients, but I simply can't do my entire case load. I would resent my clients, my job, and my life.

        • Absolutely.

          Like any small business, psychologists have major overheads that need to be paid for including office space, administrative support, marketing, professional fees, and numerous others. Furthermore, the not inconsiderable amount of administrative work will limit most practitioners to seeing only 6 people per day (6 therapy hours), which also limits income (and if the administrative work doesn't limit number of people seen per day, burnout will).

          • @soaringphoenix: @soaringphoenix: Only 6 hours per day at only 80 bucks per hour would be only $480 per day, which is a well over $100k per year.

            The use of "only" here is a little bit much. Sure, I'd want to be paid well following my 6+ years of training, but I certainly wouldn't claim "I could make more money at Kmart" or that my life would be unworkable if I were to see some/all no gap clients.

            • @ozbjunkie: They have to pay their overheads out of that money - rent, insurance etc is not free. They'd probably be lucky to see $20 or $30 out of that $80

              • @Quantumcat: Exactly. The take home pay would actually be <60k per year once expenses are accounted for, which is hardly incentivising to spend 6 years at university (as well as the HECS debt that comes alongside it).

                Further to this, like any business, there are busy and quiet periods - and reschedules/cancellations are not uncommon - meaning that six clients per day is not actually a realistic representation. Sure, you can channel more into marketing to keep the practice busy, but then again those costs need to be factored in. These complaints are rarely directed towards other allied health professionals (e.g., physiotherapy), but are directed towards psychology because there is a perception that the services should be low-cost or free.

              • @Quantumcat: Good thing I said people being greedy. Glorion doesn't fit what I said.

              • @Quantumcat: Hmm, 20 or 30 bucks per hour, like the majority of covid affected potential clients? It's a travesty, I agree.

                But with so many people working from home, and telehealth, remind me why someone should be renting an office right now?

                Again, I understand people want to make more money, not less. Just don't cry poor or complain "it would just be impossible to bulk bill" when really it would be "not financially of benefit to the practitioner".

                It's an essential service, isn't it? There's a professional ethical code specifying the need to allow access to psychological services for the needy, isn't there? Don't offer only bill billed sessions, fine, absolutely reasonable, I wouldn't either, but 0% bulk billed sessions. That's called greed (as defined by self-interest beyond the necessary, with no other rationale).

                And by all means, charge whatever you like, you did the work, they're your skills, just call a spade a spade and admit some therapists are greedy.

          • @soaringphoenix:


            So you agree that if you previously bulk billed, COVID is grounds to cease bulk billing because more people are using your services and you will stop it once COVID ends? Good to know I'll write that down.

            • @Clear: I'm not sure how you drew that leap of logic, but it's somewhat hypocritical of you to accuse others of "taking things out of context" in this exact same thread.

              I have significantly increased bulk-billing as a result of COVID, as has nearly every other clinic in Sydney. Your statement that psychologists are overcharging in response is an overgeneralisation of what you have referred to below concerning what you have observed in GP clinics.

              • @soaringphoenix: People are being hypocrites and that's apparently ok so why not join in? What I said is pretty damn easy to understand. If you increased your prices because of reasons other than greed then clearly what I said isn't referring to you. A tiny majority that I've seen nationwide are.

                Superclinics and GPs often incorporate Allied Health. I know of many doctors and specialists who aren't fans of telehealth because they earn significantly less. Then again I know doctors who are big fans of it. Then there are people like me who are the first to roll out services like eScripts and think they're great for everyone, despite some pharmacies still insisting on paper regardless.

              • @soaringphoenix: If I had previously missed where you stayed you did some bulk billed work (which I'm reading as no gap work), then I sincerely apologise. It's great you've increased no gap places, even if it's not 100% of your business.

                Kinda proves it's not unworkable to have a considerable portion of clients on no gap arrangements though, doesn't it?

                And as for the "such criticisms are not often directed at physiotherapy" well, a few points …

                1. Psychologist themselves are to no end proclaiming how vital their services are for individuals, organisations, and society in general, barely holding back from claiming "everyone should see a psychologist".

                2. More people need psychologists than physiotherapists, I'd hazard to guess.

                3. You can get a darn lot of good out of a 15 minute or 30 minute physio session, which they offer, at reasonable rates.

                4. The most experienced physio I know charges less than the recommended hourly rate for a not particularly experienced psychologist in private practice. And you'll feel the benefit of a single session. And they will have more overheads, requiring motorised beds, and possibly Pilates or weights machines etc.

                There are some other reasons, but they seem like a decent set of starting points.

        • On today's episode of taking things out of context.

          A lot of medical professionals have been taking advantage of COVID to charge more for things they normally would have bulk billed for.

          If you're burning out then you're not being greedy because of COVID. It's not an attack on you.

        • What was your old job at Kmart?

          I was going to be a psychologist for no gap clients but am now reconsidering and am interested in retail since it pays 100k+ per year.

          • @ozbjunkie: This is to address the question about the old kmart job…Just a regular shelf-packer. Around the $30/hour mark. If I bulk bill as a psychologist, lets say I see 30 clients per week, a % of them wont show, or cancel last minute, but that's 30x$86 = $2580. Now minus the clinics % and we get $1419 per week (once again assuming all 30 show). Now, of those 30, there will need to be GP letters, liaising with schools, parents, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, social workers (you're only paid for the one hour that you see them though). If there is a high risk client, requiring a comprehensive suicide risk assessment (even from one you have been seeing for a while, and thought was not at that level of risk), your session with them might run over, you might even call an ambulance and have to wait for that - and then being the one that needs to cancel. But that does not happen too often, so we won't consider that.

            Preparation, time spent on PD, staying up to date with the latest research and techniques, formulation, all takes time. Peer supervision spent on challenging cases etc. But we won't take that into consideration…

            I was able to work responsibly and much more easily 38+ hours at kmart. My income there, was both more $$$, less stressful (even during the Christmas period), and when I was not in store, easily able to switch off.

            Ozbjunkie, if you are really studying to be a psychologist, you need to sharpen your critical thinking skills (its not as simple as comparing hourly rate as you have suggested) and to read up on what is required to maintain registration.

            Oh, I have not even considered the related costs of PD, registration, insurance, supervision, etc and subtracted that from the total earnings of a bulk billing psychologist.

            • @Glorion: Not studying to be. But I do tutor people who are studying to be.

              30*38 = 1140, which, depending on the certain percentage of no shows, and the additional hours of unpaid work you so rightly refer to, may or may not be more than the figure of $1419 per week.

              Now. If you are working for a clinic paying 50% of your income to the clinic, that is a typical first year arrangement, and that proportion should decrease each year.

              Not to mention (well actually, obviously I am mentioning it), that you are free to work outside these clinics that take 50% of your pay, once you have an existing client base, and once you become better known in your industry. This rate of 50% is indeed more than you need to be paying, otherwise the clinic would be unable to drop this rate (usually by 5 or 10% for each year you continue working for them) without essentially subsiding your office fees.

              If you are paying for supervision, then this further supports my thinking that you (or this hypothetical psychologist) is only 1 or 2 years into their practice.

              Regarding your discussion of time spent studying, time spent in PD etc, well these are not financial concerns. While it's entirely valid to suggest that someone might not want to discount their services, and is under no moral obligation to do so, I think it is important to differentiate between what one would prefer (i.e. to be paid more than less) and what one simply cannot do (i.e. offer discounted services and still remain in business).

              My critical thinking skills could always use more work. Although I do think I have demonstrated that I am familiar with what it takes to obtain and retain registration as a practicing psychologist.

              Perhaps your passive aggressive attempt at brow beating me into submission reveals more about your ability to engage in critical discourse with others while refraining from ad hominem attacks. But that's ok. If someone told me to charge less, I might similarly feel like they don't appreciate the particulars of my profession.

              • @ozbjunkie: I did not think there was anything passive to do with it, I thought I was rather blunt, to be frank. It's a bit of a tired argument to be had, and there's more to it, superannuation closes the gap even further. % of the clinic does not change all that much as you progress (50-65 generally), yes you can go out on your own - then that's even more hours and stress associated there. Psychologists at any stage of their career will engage in paid supervision. Time spent in PD IS a financial concern, that is unpaid time spent maintaining your job. Same as peer consultation etc.

                My goal was not to change your mind, that won't happen. My goal is to reach those that might be reading and provide more information to them to help them understand why the fees might be the way they are. An explanation that "$86/hour looks great on paper, the reality is that when taking into account several factors, the actual value decreases significantly."

                I enjoyed how holier-than-thou you got towards the end of your last response. I might remind you of your flippant and facetious remark earlier which really was only inviting a more caustic response. Reap what you sow and all that ;)

                • @Glorion: Nobody way being holier, just calling out weasel words when I see them.

                  Can't, won't, and simply don't, are all different things.

                  All psychs could make some bulk billed no gap places available. They don't have to, and that position is perfectly defensible, but it's not defensible with the argument that it is not financially viable.

                  • @ozbjunkie: I don't know of a single private practice colleague that does not offer bulk billing to a certain number on their caseload. So I agree, all psychs could make some bulk-billed no gaps places available (and all that I know, do). The government could also address this and do what they do for GPs via bulk-billing incentives too.

                    • @Glorion: Seems we have less that we disagree on than we agree on. Far far less.

                      And it's not really an issue for me if psychs choose not to offer any bulk billed places, not GPs, physios etc. Just an issue me if they claim it's not possible when it's really not preferable.

                      Thank goodness for you and other psychs providing some bulk billed places, means that some of the people who might need therapy more than any other demographic (the impoverished, unemployed, etc) may access it.

                      I do know many psychs who offer no bulk billed places.

                      • @ozbjunkie: Psychologists are professionals, treat them as such.

                        I hope you don't need a good psychologist one day, ozbjunkie.

                        The 'race to the bottom' of fees to psychologists (and any professional) never ends in better services.

                        • @dangerdanger: Treating them as professionals includes calling BS when provided with reasoning which does not stand up to critique.

                          I repeatedly asserted that, as professionals, psychologists have the right to charge what they like. Justifications can include ethically and morally neutral and entirely valid points such as "I want to charge this, the market will bear this, other people charge this, I did lots of work and now I feel it's fair to charge this".

                          What is not as valid is to claim is it impossible to see clients on a no gap basis because the psychologist would be out of business. If I take for granted the estimate of a take home pay of $30ph nett provided above, for example, that is a low hourly rate, but it does not justify the claim of going "out of business".

                          Tldr people can charge whatever they like. However, if they offer a justification that charging any other rate is impossible or unworkable, then I may call BS.

                          Psychologists are professionals, and treating them as such includes holding them to a high standard when they explain reasons for their decisions. If those reasons seem somewhat disingenuous, then why not speak up?

      • I dont think i've seen a bulk billed one

  • Clarity on whether a psychiatrist is entirely subsidised? whats the cost per session that is covered?

    • It's Psychologist not Psychiatrist.

      Yes, still significant out of pocket. A psychological appointment typically costs $300+ and you will still be out of pocket $100+ easily.

      • Perhaps for Psychiatrists.

        There are very few psychologists charging $300. Even the most renowned clinicians rarely are above $250.

        Generally, the going rate will be between $180 and $230, and you will receive an $88 rebate if they are a 'General' Psychologist, or $128 if they are a 'Clinical Psychologist'.

        • depends, on area I suppose. With my local you're out of pocket $30 after rebate

        • Ignorant dude here, but are psychologist considered higher in hierachy to a gp? How come they are so much more expensive? Is it just lack of demand or government doesn't care as much about mental than physical health.

          • @HelloOzB: No from an educational attainment perspective, but they are just as vital, if not more so during periods of heightened emotional and mental anguish.

          • @HelloOzB: If a GP is seeing many patients for 10 minutes each, and is using many item numbers, they will make up to 3-4x the hourly rate of a Psychologist. Psychologists cost more because there is less Medicare subsidisation.

            The same can be said for Physios and other allied health practitioners who will generally cost more than a GP visit.

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