Two Tier Medicare Rebate System for Psychological Therapy Services

Page last updated: 19 February 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.

Currently, 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 originally established on this principle.

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. The 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 MHRG 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. Consultation on the MHRG report opened on 5 February 2019, with a closing date of 17 May 2019. Submissions can be made via an online questionnaire, and targeted stakeholder forums will be held in March 2019. Further information on how stakeholders can be involved and make submissions can be found on the MBS review website.

The Taskforce will then consider feedback received through the consultation process to inform final recommendations to the Government later in 2019.