Your GP plays a major role in helping you access mental health care under medicare

How to Access Mental Health Care Services under Medicare in Australia

Mental illness is the third most prevalent medical condition plaguing Australians, behind heart disease and cancer. That’s why local governments around the country have set up initiatives with the goal of coordinating with each other to provide mental health care for those who need it the most. Additionally, the Federal government has the ‘Better Access’ initiative to provide support for those who need mental health treatment.

If you wish to access Medicare-assisted mental healthcare, you can do so by following the right procedures. So, what exactly are the right procedures to access mental health with Medicare?

Step 1 – Check your Medicare status

Before visiting a doctor, make sure that your Medicare is up-to-date and active. It will save a lot of time and confusion down the road when you are processing a claim.

If you do not have Medicare, then you need to apply by filling out the application forms and making sure you meet the requirements. There are different requirements depending on Australian citizens, permanent residents, and even visitors. Therefore, it’s prudent to do a little research and make sure you are eligible before applying.

Step 2 – Visit your General Practioner (GP)

Like most physical conditions, you need to visit your General Practioner (GP) for your mental conditions. If you happen to be looking for a new GP, then you can find one through the Government’s Health Direct website. You can find a GP based on location, hours available and whether they do bulk billing, which means you don’t have to pay – just bring the Medicare card. Always be sure to bring your Medicare card when visiting your GP.

During your appointment, the GP will want to assess your mental health condition. The GP may require several sessions to determine the state of your mind. After a session (or several) the GP will decide if you need a psychologist for further mental health care. Sometimes, he or she will recommend you to an accredited Mental Health Social Worker. If you are already visiting a psychologist, be sure to tell your GP. The doctor will provide a mental health treatment plan and a referral, along with the recommendation.

Step 3 – Find a psychologist to attend six sessions

You can visit the psychologist recommended by your GP directly or via not-for-profits like onPysch or you can find your own with their referral. If you wish to find your own psychiatrist, visit the ‘Find A Psychologist tool’ found on the Australian Psychological Society website. Please keep in mind that the psychologist must have a Medicare Provider Number. Alternatively, you can find an accredited mental health social worker. Be aware, however, that you may find yourself on a waiting list.

If you live in the outback, the government allows video conferencing session with a psychologist, where seven out of ten sessions can be refunded by Medicare.

Step 4 – Paying with Medicare

Medicare can cover the costs of the appointment depending on several factors like length of consultation. If your psychologist does bulk billing, then you do not have to pay anything. However, this is not always the case. A psychologist may charge more than what Medicare covers and you will have to cover the difference out of your pocket. In such cases, the following options are available to you:

  • Pay the full amount for the session and use the receipt to claim a Medicare reimbursement.
  • Claim from your Medicare using your unpaid account and forward it to the psychologist.
  • Pay the difference between the full cost and the Medicare rebate, then forward the rebate to your psychologist.

Step 5 – Need more than six sessions? Here is the next step.

If you feel you need more than six sessions, then you must speak with your psychologist. If he or she agrees, then you will need to visit your GP again to get another mental health care plan. You will be assessed for more sessions, and rebated for four more. You can only get the rebate for ten sessions in a calendar year.

Key takeaways

If you wish to have mental health care under Medicare, then you need to follow the right procedures. Fortunately, the process is not complicated, provided you have the right documentation at hand. Make sure you have your Medicare card with you and then visit your GP. After a visit to the GP, you can visit a psychologist recommended to you, or find someone on your own.

If you wish to know more about mental illness and how to get treatment for it, then visit onPysch for more information.

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