Today, the much anticipated Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report was released and discussed at National Cabinet. The report delves into four key themes and recommendations for each.

  1. Increasing access to primary care
  2. Encouraging multidisciplinary team-based care
  3. Modernising primary care
  4. Supporting change management and cultural change

The key takeaway is that nothing tangible has been announced today, rather medium to long-term aspirational ideas. While this was not unexpected, it does come as a blow to those who are struggling with accessing a psychologist, particularly after cuts to the number of Better Access sessional allowances this year. A key concept from the report and subsequent media interviews and statements is the need for all health professionals to work at the very top of their scope of practice. This is not currently occurring in the psychology profession and this must change. At present psychologists without certain endorsements are blocked from certain jobs, limited in their scope of practice, and related to lower rebates/funding. I would like to highlight this is arbitrary and does not factor in education, further training or experience and to this day is not based on any evidence. To 'Strengthen Medicare we must cease the discrimination of psychologists based on endorsement type or lack thereof.

Regarding multidisciplinary care, we agree with Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA), of which AAPi is a member. AHPA is particularly concerned with the recommendation to increase investment in the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP). In their Media Release AHPA CEO Bronwyn Morris-Donovan says “There is no evidence that the employment of allied health professionals under the WIP has improved access to multidisciplinary care. The allied health sector has opposed the WIP since its inception - it undermines the entire employment model of private allied health. The Government is taking a general practice incentive payment and calling it a win for multidisciplinary team care. It is a not a win for consumers or allied health. It shows there is still no real understanding of how to build a system that genuinely puts consumers at the centre.”

Also this week, a Productivity Commission Report revealed that Australians delaying vital health care because of cost. With regard to mental health, the report found that last year almost 22 per cent of people postponed appointments with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional due to cost. The two-tier system dramatically impacts this.

Cost is currently the biggest barrier to access. If the reforms are genuinely consumer-centred, then the simple fact is that rebates need to be higher. We are calling for an immediate increase of the Medicare rebate to $150 per session so that all Australians can afford to see a psychologist. 

Our priority is to ensure equitable access to everyone in need of mental health care. This crisis is only going to prevail if we don’t see some practical changes implemented now.

We must end endorsement discrimination 

Posted on 3 February 2023