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Medicare mental health funding cut

1 November 2011 - 5:00pm

Changes to mental health services available through general practice came into effect today (November 1).

Under changes announced in the May budget, Medicare rebates for GP mental health services under the Better Access Program will be cut by up to 46 per cent.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Steve Hambleton predicts approximately one million patients each year access publicly-funded mental health services, rather than those accessed through private health insurance.

Dr Hambleton also stated that the cuts have been the subject of a major senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry, which received "over 1,100 submissions from concerned organisations, health professionals, families and individuals affected by mental illness, and the general public".

A report from the inquiry is due in the coming days.

"Despite overwhelming opposition from patients and most professional groups, the Government is going ahead with these cuts to patients’ Medicare entitlements," Dr Hambleton said.

The federal government's Private Health Insurance Ombudsman states that one in five Australians will experience some form of mental illness in their lives.

Patients with private health cover can access psychological services outside of Medicare's current system, with some policies covering a portion of the costs.