Association Update

Posted on 30 July 2021
By Tegan Carrison, Executive Director, AAPi

I wanted to start by sending my thoughts and best wishes to our colleagues in NSW. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought so many challenges. We stand together as a community. If you need help or support, we are here for you.

Since our last newsletter, AAPi represented our members at the Select Committee into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Hearing. As we have previously written about, this inquiry is very important for the future of mental health care in Australia and will bring together many of the recent reviews, inquires and Royal Commissions regarding mental health. AAPi again reinforced our key recommendations which include:

  • One-tier Medicare rebate for the clients of all registered psychologists in Australia.
  • Raise the Medicare rebate to $150 per session to allow for greater access, facilitate more bulk billing, and enable appropriate treatment.
  • Telehealth to be a permanent option.
  • Implementing the Productivity Commission recommendation for up to 40 rebated sessions per annum.
  • Simplify the process of accessing a psychologist. This includes simplifying referrals to registered psychologists and that of review letters back to referrers and upgrading the MBS to reduce the burden on psychologists. Psychologists should also not be held financially accountable for referral errors.
  • Broaden MBS rebateable sessions to psychologists to incorporate vital prevention and early intervention strategies in addition to responding to mental illness.
  • Psychological interventions for couples counselling and family therapy.
  • Re-instatement of self-referral processes to increase access to psychological services.
  • Medicare rebated assessments funded at a sufficient level to minimise out-of-pocket consumer expenses.
  • Culturally appropriate treatment options.
  • Establish a 'Provisional Psychologist' Medicare rebate.
  • Expand the evidence-based approaches able to be used by psychologists.
  • Review the evidence and Government spending on mental health "hubs" and appropriately fund private practice psychology.
  • Cease discrimination of psychologists without clinical endorsement in areas including but not limited to employment opportunities, scope of practice and funding.
  • Prioritise key prevention and early intervention settings such as schools and workplaces.
  • Address and minimise the current over reliance on psychiatric medication.
  • Introduce incentives for rural and remote psychologists - similar to GP's.

AAPi has been invited to provide further evidence, particularly regarding raising the Medicare rebate and the differences in competencies for registered psychologists and endorsed psychologists. The Select Committee received over 200 submission, many from AAPi members reinforcing the above key messaging.

Unfortunately, the submission from the Australian Psychological Society (APS) did not call for significant changes to the MBS (Medicare), neither did they advocate to increase the Medicare rebate or remove the discriminatory two tier system. It their section on the MBS, subtitled 'Let’s not reinvent the wheel', the APS again recommended a three tier Medicare system that would exclude the majority of psychologists (registered psychologists) from providing 'Advanced Psychological Therapy' to clients who are complex or have comorbidities. Again the APS has failed to represent the majority of their members with regards to fair and equitable funding.

AAPi remains the only peak body, that is actively working to represent all psychologists.

We will keep you posted on the final recommendations of the Select Committee.

In closing, a quick update on the legal challenges to the endorsement system and discriminatory funding based on endorsement. Much progress has been made behind the scenes and we will provide a full update including time frames and opportunities for involvement in the coming weeks. AAPi remains as dedicated as ever to achieving equality for psychology and we will continue to follow every possible legal and political avenue in the best interests of our members.