Information for General Practitioners
Medicare Better Access to Mental Health Treatment Services
In October 2020 Medicare introduced changes to the number of sessions available to patients under the Better Access Initiative. A patient may currently be eligible to access up to two treatment streams per year under the Better Access initiative:
• 10 initial sessions (with a maximum of six sessions per referral); and
• 10 additional sessions (with up to 10 sessions per referral).
Patients can be referred for a maximum of six sessions, followed by a maximum four additional sessions in the initial referral. Once 10 services have been used, the patient may be referred for up to 10 additional sessions to a combined total of 20 services (initial and additional) in a calendar year. Additional Better Access services will be available until 30 June 2022. Eligible patients need to see their GP, (the reviewing practitioner) for a review and referral to access the additional sessions performed by allied health professionals.
The reviewing practitioner is not required to claim a ‘Review’ Medicare item (Item 2712). A review can occur using one of the consultation items if a patient has already had a review in the last 3 months (see table below). As with Better Access initial treatment services, referrals for Better Access subsequent treatment services can be used across more than one calendar year as long as no more than 20 sessions are accessed in any one calendar year. Once a patient has used their 10 additional sessions, the next course of treatment, if required, is provided under standard Better Access arrangements (e.g. initial items with a maximum of six sessions per referral).
Please note the following guidelines from Medicare, when referring to a psychologist or other allied mental health professional. The referring practitioner must provide a signed and dated letter to an eligible allied mental health professional. The referral should also include a statement that a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) has been completed for the patient. Importantly, the referral letter must specify the number of sessions the patient is being referred for. An allied health professional cannot assume that a patient has been referred for the maximum number of sessions available to them.