The Commonwealth Government’s Better Access initiative aims to improve outcomes for people with a clinically-diagnosed mental disorder through evidence-based treatment. Under this initiative, Medicare Australia rebates are available to patients for selected mental health services provided by GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists (clinical and registered) and eligible social workers and occupational therapists.
Recent changes to the Better Access initiative
Mental Health Treatment Plans
From 1 November 2011, Medicare items 2702 and 2710 for the preparation of a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan were removed from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and replaced with four new time-tiered items – 2700, 2701, 2715 and 2717.
GPs are now paid for the actual time they spend on developing a Mental Health Treatment Plan, plus an incentive for undertaking mental health skills training (MHST) to maintain the high quality of care provided.
Access to Allied Mental Health Services
In the 2011-12 budget, additional changes to the Better Access initiative included reducing the number of Medicare rebates available for allied health services from 12 (up to 18 in ‘exceptional circumstances’) to 10 for individuals each calendar year. These changes began on 1 November 2011.
On 1 February 2012 the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, the Hon Mark Butler MP announced that the government will be reinstating the additional six allied mental health services available under 'exceptional circumstances' for a further year to 31 December 2012.