As part of our initial discussion with clients who inquire about psychological services, psychologists address various topics including support options available through Medicare’s Better Access Scheme, which is also referred to as a Mental Health Treatment Plan. During these conversations, we often encounter clients who have a combination of accurate and inaccurate information. To alleviate any confusion that may arise when seeking treatment through the Better Access Scheme, I have compiled a list of commonly asked questions. This will save you the inconvenience of uncertainty and help you gain a better understanding of how the scheme operates.
What is the Better Access Scheme?
The Better Access Scheme, implemented by Medicare, aims to assist individuals in obtaining mental health services to alleviate symptoms that are affecting their well-being. It also provides financial assistance to clients by offering a Medicare rebate to cover the costs of accessing treatment with a psychologist.
A Mental Health Treatment Plan can be used for both face-to-face and telehealth sessions, meaning those who live in remote areas can access services nationwide to support their mental health.
Can anyone get a mental health treatment plan?
The purpose of treatment plans is to aid individuals in the community who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder by their general practitioner. The goal is to collaboratively work with a therapist to achieve treatment objectives and alleviate the symptoms that are adversely affecting their mental well-being.
How many sessions do you get?
If you’re entitled to a treatment plan, you are eligible to 10 individual and 10 group allied mental health services per calendar year.
I thought you could access 20 sessions a year?
Sadly, this is a thing of the past. During COVID, the Morisson government increased rebates to 20 sessions per year to support those struggling with their mental health. This was reviewed by the Albanese government in late 2022 and returned to the original system in January 2023.
We continue to hope that this will be reviewed and corrected in line with the mental health demands within the community and will keep you updated should this change.
Sessions are free, right?
This is one of the most common misconceptions that I hear during new client enquiries. A treatment plan does not entitle you to free sessions, but a rebate to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses per session. For a registered psychologist, the current rebate for the 2022-2023 financial year is $89.65 per session, and for a clinical psychologist, you receive $131.65 per session.
What happens when I’ve exhausted all my rebates for the year?
Once you have exhausted your yearly plan, you can still continue to see your psychologist. Clients who have private health insurance with coverage that includes mental health services can receive rebates from their provider.
What does the treatment plan entail from the psychologist?
To comply with Medicare’s requirements, psychologists are obligated to provide progress reports to the client’s GP when they are undergoing treatment. This report is typically submitted after the client has completed their sixth session and when they revisit their GP for a referral review. The report contains important updates necessary for the GP to review and support the client’s treatment plan.
What if I don’t want you to liaise with my GP?
You are welcome to see a psychologist as a private client. However, this does mean that rebates can’t be claimed through Medicare. Should you have private health insurance, subject to your coverage, you could claim rebates through your provider.
What about when the time comes when I no longer meet the criteria for a treatment plan?
Clients may find it stressful from a financial standpoint to continue sessions without the out-of-pocket reduction. However, I prefer to reframe this situation in a positive light by reminding them that reaching this point in treatment means that their goals have been achieved. This might entail scheduling check-ins on an “as-needed” basis to prevent relapse or initiating discussions about ending treatment if that feels appropriate.
If you require additional information about a Mental Health Treatment Plan or have unanswered questions, feel free to get in touch with us. We will be happy to include your question in our frequently asked questions (FAQs) section to provide clarity and assist others who may have similar concerns.