Medicare Rebates for Psychologist Sessions During the COVID Pandemic

by Martin Hood, Clinical Psychologist

Medicare rebates are available for psychological treatment provided by registered or clinical psychologists registered with Medicare. In addition, the Medicare Better Access scheme offers financial assistance to make mental healthcare more affordable to people experiencing mental health issues. Under this scheme, people diagnosed with a mental health disorder can access up to 10 individual psychological sessions per calendar year.

In March 2020, Medicare introduced new COVID-19 items to allow clients to access Online Therapy with a Registered or Clinical psychologist via Telehealth (video call) or telephone. If you are considering Online Therapy appointments with a psychologist, check this article: Getting Ready for Online Therapy with a Psychologist.

To determine whether you are eligible for Medicare rebates, you must make a long appointment with your GP or psychiatrist, who will assess whether you would benefit from therapy with a psychologist. If so, your doctor can prepare a referral or Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) so that you can access psychological therapy with either a Registered or Clinical Psychologist under the Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative. Your MHTP will allow you to claim up to 10 Medicare Rebates per calendar year for in-person, online therapy, or telephone appointments with your psychologist.

In August 2020, the Australian Government announced that an additional 10 Medicare psychological sessions would also be subsidised to clients who used their ten initial sessions. You require a Mental Health Treatment Plan review with your referring GP or psychiatrist to access these additional services. You can do this once you have completed your initial ten sessions. Your GP or psychiatrist will assess whether you would benefit from further psychological sessions with your mental health practitioner.

You do not need a doctor’s referral or Mental Health Care Plan to see a psychologist. However, you would need a referral to be eligible to claim Medicare rebates. Alternatively, if you have Private Health Insurance, depending on your level of coverage, you may be eligible for private health insurance rebates.

You cannot use your private health insurance coverage to top up the Medicare rebates. Therefore, if you have both a GP referral or MHTP and Private Health Insurance, you must decide which option to use to subsidise the psychological services you receive from your psychologist.