Medicare Benefits Schedule Review update


Eating Disorders: AMHSWs eligible to deliver services under the new MBS items

The much-needed MBS items announced by the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt in December 2018  will come into effect on 1 November 2019 and will include:

  • A dedicated single Medicare Benefits Scheme item number for eating disorder treatment for those with severe and complex illness, delivering up to 60 Medicare-funded sessions of treatment – 40 psychotherapeutic and 20 dietetic across the range of eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and atypical presentations
  • Diagnosis by a GP and mental health practitioner recognising that these psychiatric illnesses have a significant physical impact and integrated treatment is essential.

We have been advised that there will be strict criteria for access to these items.

The AASW is sitting on the Eating Disorder Implementation Liaison Group, and more information will be made available through our e-news and website.

Mental Health Items

As part of the Department of Health's Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) review, the AASW has advocated for significant reform, with a focus on the mental health items and greater recognition of Accredited Mental Health Social Workers (AMHSW). Since 2015, we have made several submissions and engaged in all major consultation forums with key stakeholders and decision makers.

Our main points have included:

  • The need for a person-centred, holistic, evidence-based, collaborative and systemic approach to MBS-funded mental health supports
  • Greater recognition and use of clinical social work services across all Medicare initiatives
  • Action to address pay parity for AMHSWs.

In February 2019, the Department of Health released for consultation the MBS Review Mental Health Reference Group Report. The report details the views and recommendations from the Mental Health Reference Group and have been released for the purpose of seeking the views of stakeholders. The AASW was pleased to note that many of our concerns were reflected in the Report and its recommendations.

We have recently made our submission, which also includes the AASW's proposed model for MBS Better Access that focuses on client need, recognises complexity, supports collaboration and is inclusive of all professional groups.

We will make our submission available on our webpage shortly.

In our submission to the recommendations, among several points we:

  • Support the recommendation to extend MBS Better Access clients who do not meet the full criteria for a mental health diagnosis but are at risk of developing a mental health condition
  • Support the recommendation to increase the number of sessions to up to 40 per calendar year, taking into consideration complex need, not just mental health diagnosis
  • Support the greater focus on group work and improved access to supports for family members and carers
  • Support the recommendation that the list of approved therapies be reviewed and expanded
  • Support the recommendation for inclusion of greater recognition of individual mental health support and therapy for residents in aged care facilities
  • Support the expansion of digital mental health and telehealth services.

In relation to pay parity for AMHSWs, this was beyond the scope of this initial inquiry and part of the recommendations are that a new group be established to review access and rebates. The AASW supports this measure and will continue to advocate on this point, and advocate that equitable representation is ensured.

The final recommendations from the MBS Review Mental Health Reference Group Report will then be considered by the Minister for Health and government for possible implementation.

As the peak body for qualified social workers, we will continue to advocate for AMHSWs and for significant mental health reform. We will update members of any progress.