At present, it is illegal for someone to see their therapist remotely/over a video call, and access Medicare rebates… unless they meet a strict new criteria outlined by the government.

Basically, what this means is that if you are unable to visit a practice in person, therapy has just increased in cost for you.

Now, it goes without saying that with the current situation surrounding COVID-19, this is going to be a huge problem for people who are at risk, because all of Australia is being thoroughly encouraged to self-isolate at the moment.

What we’re seeing first hand is a sharp increase of people in urgent need of support, cancelling on sessions as they now can’t afford them. The majority of psychology clients in Australia access therapy via Mental Health Care Plan rebates, making treatment much more affordable. On Friday, the government announced new COVID-19 policies for rebated psychology treatment over video calls (telehealth).

However, the new rules only apply to practitioners and clients who meet a narrow criteria and excludes the majority of Australians for whom isolation is / will soon be a reality.

Currently, The Indigo Project is lobbying the government for an urgent fix via a campaign and socials strategy.

So basically, what does this all mean?

Therapy has just significantly increased in cost for all Australians who do not meet the strict COVID-19 criteria, and are unable to enter a practice in person. Given the current climate of isolation, remote therapy is quickly becoming a necessity for many, but will no longer be affordable for some.

It is currently illegal for a psychology client to claim their regular medicare rebate over a telehealth (video call) session, E.g. A client suffering severe depression may be choosing to self-isolate. If they continue therapy sessions remotely via video calls, the price of these sessions just increased by a minimum of $80, as they can no longer legally access a Medicare rebate. This is a stressful time when anxiety levels are high and continued support is needed.

What is being done?

The folks over at The Indigo Project, have taken proactive measures and have reduced their rates for Skype sessions, absorbing the typical rebate fee themselves to ensure prices do not increase for clients. This has significantly impacted the livelihoods of their therapists and business, and will have huge repercussions for the entire psychology industry.

Medicare must ensure continued mental health support through this time of fear and anxiety, through this simple change of the law. As it stands, existing mental health support systems will be eroded by current legislation.

“This law just doesn’t make sense. We desperately need to support the mental health of Australians, now more than ever, particularly knowing that physical distancing can help limit the spread of COVID-19,” says Mary Hoang, Founder and Head Psychologist at The Indigo Project,  “At The Indigo Project, we are absorbing the cost of the rebate for our clients so that there is no additional cost for their sessions – but this will slowly choke our business; we see over 1000 clients every month, and this is unsustainable in the long term. The government’s lack of support will destroy the livelihood of all psychologists who rely on Medicare, as people seek remote therapy.

“We’re seeing a crisis point – people are unable to visit a practice, and the government expects them to pay even more to receive mental health support”

“To give one example, someone seeing a therapist at $180 might typically receive a rebate of $80. Which means they pay $100. Because of the way Medicare is structured right now, if that person tries to see a therapist over Skype, they now cannot access that rebate. So their fee just increased by $80″

“The craziest part of all of this is that we’re not asking the government for an extra cent. We’re simply asking them to legally allow our industry to pivot to telehealth and continue our services over video calls”

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