News today that the number of psychology sessions covered by Medicare will be cut in January from 20 per year down to just 10, is an unforgivable slap in the face to Australians under increasing mental health stress.
Since 2011 the scheme had been capped to ten sessions a year, but in 2020 an additional ten sessions were introduced to cope with the COVID pandemic.
Ten was never enough, so the increase to twenty was a welcome move: if the Federal Government now thinks the need for psychology services has receded, then it is clearly is not connecting with everyday Australians.
I am advised that there is overwhelming evidence that 10 sessions in many cases simply is not enough. For example, peer-reviewed clinical research from the USA reveals that between 13 and 18 visits to a Psychologist are needed for 50 per cent of patients to improve, while findings from psychology clinics in the UK show that between four and 26 sessions are needed for effective treatment.
A cap of 10 sessions means that many patients are under-treated, leading to a much higher rates of relapse. In other words, the treatment they have had is wasted.
The Tasmanian Minister responsible for mental health, the Premier Jeremy Rockliff, must pick up the phone immediately and tell Federal Minister Butler that this decision must be reversed.
I am calling on the Federal Government to immediately re-instate the 20 session cap. In addition, the Minister must listen to the peak body for Australian psychologists and mobilise the 8,000 provisional Psychologists ready and willing to fill the gaps, particularly in the regions, and raise the Medicare rebate to a realistic level.