About the initiative
The Better Access initiative gives Medicare rebates to eligible people, so they can access the mental health services they need.
Support is available from eligible general practitioners (GPs) and other medical practitioners, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists.
Eligible people can receive up to 10 individual and up to 10 group allied mental health services each year.
Since 1 November 2017, those who live in rural and remote areas (Modified Monash Model areas 4 to 7) have had access to these services via telehealth. Since 30 March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone can now access telehealth.
Evaluation of the Better Access initiative – final report
This is the final report of an independent evaluation of the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule initiative (Better Access), undertaken by the University of Melbourne.
Extra support during the COVID-19 pandemic
Extra support is available until 31 December 2022 for people who have a mental health treatment plan in place. People experiencing severe or enduring mental health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic can access an extra 10 sessions.
Read about these extra sessions.
Why it is important
Living with mental ill-health has a huge impact on people’s lives, and can be overwhelming. For people experiencing mental ill-health, getting the right support and treatment strategies early is critical.
Better Access helps cover the cost of this support, giving people easier access and more choice.
People in rural and remote areas, where mental health services can be scarce, particularly benefit from being able to access video consultations.
Goals of the initiative
Better Access aims to encourage more people to seek support for their mental ill-health.
It works to improve treatment and management for people who have mild to moderate mental health conditions. These are cases where short-term evidence-based interventions are most likely to be useful.
Better Access also funds education and training for health professionals. This helps increase the skills of our mental health workforce to ensure people get effective support.
Better Access Evaluation
We are evaluating Better Access. The evaluation will see if Better Access helps people get the right support. It will also help us work out how to improve Better Access.
Read about the evaluation.
Who can access Better Access rebates
The rebate is available to people with a diagnosed mental disorder. This includes many conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
The first step is to talk to your GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician and discuss whether treatment under Better Access is suitable for your needs.
MBS item changes for group therapy under the Better Access initiative
From 1 November 2022, group therapy Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items under the Better Access initiative will include:
- 16 new MBS items for group therapy sessions lasting at least 90 minutes or 120 minutes
- amendments to 8 existing MBS items to reduce the minimum number of patients required to hold a group therapy session from 6 to 4
- allowing all group therapy MBS items to be claimed with only 3 patients, if 4 patients were scheduled to attend but one patient does not attend (for example, due to unforeseen circumstances).
More information on Group Therapy MBS Changes can be found on MBS online.
Who we work with
We fund and manage the Better Access initiative.
Services Australia processes benefits paid under the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
Better Access education and training
Better Access funds education and training for mental health professionals. This helps to build their skills in working with people who live with mental ill-health.
It also helps them understand important aspects of effectively treating people, including:
- understanding Medicare Benefits Schedule item numbers
- referrals and patient health care planning
- how mental health professionals can work together in a multidisciplinary care team.
To support medical professionals, we fund the:
- Mental Health Professionals' Network to establish and support networks of professionals who work together on referral and treatment strategies
- General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration to establish quality standards of education and training in mental health for general practitioners.
Better Access Initiative resource collection
For more information on Better Access call Medicare on:
- 132 150 for providers
- 132 011 for people seeking assistance.