Campaign against cuts to mental health rebate heats up
PEAK doctors’ bodies have vowed to intensify a campaign against cuts to rebates for GP mental health plans, after failing to convince key Government ministers to overturn the controversial measure.
The pledge comes as it was announced today that a senate inquiry will now investigate the funding and administration of mental health services in Australia and specifically the impact of the Better Access funding cuts on patient services.
The inquiry, initiated by Coalition Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and supported by the Greens, will investigate much of the government’s budget centrepiece mental health package including the adequacy and impact of services provided via the Access to Allied Psychological Services Program (ATAPS).
United General Practice Australia – comprising the AMA, RACGP, AGPN, RDAA and others – met Mental Health Minister Mark Butler and senior representatives from Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s office in Canberra on Tuesday to urge them to reverse recent Budget cuts, which were designed to rein in spending on the Better Access scheme.
Under the cuts, the current rebate of $163.35 for a mental health plan for GPs would be replaced two rebates based on timed consultations. The new rebates will be $85.92 for a consultation of 20–39 minutes and $126.43 for a 40-minute consult for GPs who have completed Level 1 mental health training.
UGPA said the Government representative refused to wind back the cuts, despite arguments that many people with mental illnesses may no longer be able to afford a GP mental health plan once the rebate is reduced in November.
In a statement, UGPA said it remained “determined to stay engaged with the Government to have the rebates restored”.
It has already started canvassing the key independents, as well as the Opposition and the Greens, to put additional pressure on the minority Government to reverse the cuts.
The AMA has previously written to every federal parliamentarian outlining its opposition to the cuts.
UGPA now says it will press ahead with its plan to wage the campaign “through grassroots involvement with local GPs and their patients”.
“The overwhelming feedback from general practices around the country is that people with mental illness will be severely disadvantaged by the new arrangements,” the UGPA statement read.
“Funding for GP mental health plans should be restored and... GPs should be given more support to play a greater role in mental health.”