Two Tier Medicare Rebate System for Psychological Therapy Services

Page last updated: 18 January 2019

The Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative was introduced in 2006. It provides for a range of Medicare rebateable services for eligible people with a diagnosed mental disorder.

Allied mental health services available under this initiative include Psychological Therapy services provided by eligible clinical psychologists and Focussed Psychological Strategies provided by eligible registered general psychologists, and appropriately trained social workers, occupational therapists and general practitioners.

The rebates available under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) broadly recognise the different levels of training and experience associated with the provision of services by general medical practitioners and specialist medical practitioners. As there are several recognised specialities within the practice of psychology, including clinical psychology, the MBS rebates for psychological therapy services were established on this principle.

As part of the Government’s Healthier Medicare initiative, the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce (the Taskforce) is undertaking a review of the entire MBS to consider how its more than 5700 items can be aligned with contemporary clinical evidence and practice and improve health outcomes for patients. The review is independent and clinician-led, with recommendations made to the Minister for Health.

As part of the Review, a Mental Health Reference Group (MHRG) was formed in June 2018 to review the mental health MBS items. This MHRG includes representatives of each profession eligible to deliver services under the Better Access initiative including both registered and clinical psychologists, as well as related professions such as mental health nurses and counsellors. The Group has considered more than 300 submissions made over the course of the MBS review relating to mental health.

The Taskforce considered the MHRG report in 2018, and it is expected the report will be released for consultation in early 2019, which will inform final Taskforce recommendations to Government later in 2019. Further information on the MBS Review, including a full list of the membership of the MHRG, is available on the Department of Health website.