Medicare Funding for Online Therapy Sessions Extended

by Martin Hood, Clinical Psychologist

The Australian Government has announced this month that Medicare-subsidised Telehealth or Online Therapy Psychology services provided by psychologists will be extended until the end of 2021. The government rolled out Online Therapy subsidies in March 2020, including psychology sessions with a registered psychologist or clinical psychologist, as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, for Australians to continue to access GP, mental health and allied health services during lockdowns.

Psychologists have welcomed the extension of Online Therapy psychology sessions under Medicare until the end of 2021. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, most psychologists adopted Telehealth, which has been vital for clients to access mental health support when face-to-face sessions haven’t been possible or a barrier to care due to lockdown, isolation or health concerns. Knowing that clients under Medicare can access Online Therapy or Telehealth psychology sessions until the end of 2021 provides certainty for psychologists and their clients alike.

Online Therapy With a Psychologist

Throughout the pandemic, online therapy psychology sessions or Telehealth has been a lifeline for psychology clients to access vital mental health support, particularly when face-to-face sessions aren’t possible, or there is a barrier to care.

Potentially anyone with access to a phone or computer and the internet can receive an Online Therapy service. Online therapy however is not appropriate for people who need a high level of care, particularly those who have acute mental health issues and/or are medically compromised. When thinking about whether Telehealth is right for you, factors to consider include your capacity to use technology, your age, any barriers to engaging in Telehealth such as visual or hearing impairment, language or communication barriers, and some mental health symptoms and safety concerns, among others.

Some clients may choose not to engage in Telehealth sessions as they do not have a private space at home or work where they can have an hour-long session without being interrupted or overheard by others. You can find more information about Telehealth and what to expect in this article: Getting Ready for Telehealth Psychology Sessions.

Your suitability for Telehealth may change over time and should be regularly reviewed.

Rebates for Online Therapy with a Psychologist

Medicare rebates are presently available for clients to access online therapy sessions until the end of 2021. Most private health funds and Government-affiliated third parties are also funding Telehealth during the COVID pandemic. Anyone who has an eligible Mental Health Care Plan or referral from their Doctor can claim Medicare Rebate for Telehealth sessions with their psychologist.

You may be able to claim private health insurance rebates for online psychology sessions if you are not claiming Medicare rebates (you cannot claim both for the same sessions). As the policies for this differ between funds, please check your eligibility for this directly with your private health fund provider, and they will be able to tell you if you are eligible and the exact amount of rebates.

About Online Therapy or Telehealth

Below you can see an example from Coviu, an Australian Online Therapy or Telehealth platform used by many psychologists for Telehealth video sessions with their clients.