Free and unlimited mental health in Medicare

The Australian Greens MPs

The Greens have today announced that in balance of power after the next election, they will push to tackle the growing mental health crisis in Australia by making mental healthcare freely available for everyone who needs it as part of Medicare.

The plan, which will create universal, unlimited and available mental healthcare through Medicare, will be funded by taxing billionaires and big corporations making big profits.

Our plan will ensure everyone can access mental healthcare, when they need it, not when they can afford it.

On current polling, a power-sharing Parliament is the most likely outcome of the coming election. The Greens have already announced their ‘tycoon tax’ plan that will be pushed in ‘balance of power’ negotiations to help raise revenue, but the free mental health care plan is the first key expenditure policy announced by the party.

This plan is a priority for the party and will be a central election campaign focus for the Greens, especially amongst young people, and a key element of post-election balance of power negotiations.

As stated by the Greens Health Spokesperson, Senator Jordon Steele-John:

“Mental health services in Australia are out of reach for too many people. Hundreds of thousands of people are being left behind because they can’t get the help they need. Two of the problems people are banging up against are the cost of services, and the limit on number of appointments.

“Over half of individual psychological therapy sessions had an average gap payment of $68, whilst two thirds of psychiatrist consultations had an average gap of payment of $93 (source).

“The lockdowns and pandemic have affected everyone’s mental health. Everyone’s stressed, worried, and anxious about the future. But the urgent need for universal mental health services, funded by big corporations making big profits, was urgent before the pandemic.

“We can tackle this crisis. By taxing the billionaires and big corporations we can make sure everyone can afford to access mental health services for as long as they need them.

“When everyone can access free mental health support, our whole community will benefit through an improved quality of life, improved relationships and better performance while studying or working.

As stated by Greens Leader Adam Bandt:

“The next election will be closer than people think. Scott Morrison is only 828 votes away from losing majority government and on current polling, a power-sharing Parliament is the most likely outcome.

“In balance of power, the Greens will kick the Liberals out and push the next government to make billionaire corporations pay their fair share of tax so we can get free and unlimited mental health care into Medicare.

“Last time The Greens were in balance of power we got free dental for kids into Medicare, and this time we will fight to get people the mental health care they deserve. In balance of power, the Greens will push to get dental and mental health fully into Medicare.”

How the Greens’ plan will work

The Greens’ plan announced today would expand the Better Access Initiative to unlimited psychology or psychiatric therapy sessions and raise their Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates for patients with a diagnosed mental illness. The rebates would be offered at two levels to give mental health care providers a real avenue to providing no-gap mental health care.

Details of amendments to the Medicare rebate:

  • For psychiatric therapy sessions, rebates for MBS items 291, 296, 297, and 299 would be raised to 100 percent of the schedule fees (currently 85 percent)
  • For psychology therapy sessions there are two levels:
    • the higher level, for providers who offer no-gap services to encourage bulk billing, MBS rebates for items 80000, 80005, 80010, 80015 would be increased to match the 2021-22 rates recommended by the Australian Psychology Society.
    • the lower level, for sessions charged at more than the Australian Psychology Society recommended rates, providers would receive the current, lower, rebates.
  • Within any 12-month period, people would be eligible for unlimited sessions. They would need a referral from their General Practitioner (GP) every 10 treatment sessions under their mental health treatment plan.
  • The Parliamentary Budget Office has calculated that this plan will decrease the fiscal balance by $1.123 billion over the estimates and $4.726 over the decade.
  • The Greens ‘tycoon tax’ plan on the super-profits of big corporations and mining companies, previously launched, will raise $338b over the decade.

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