Labor’s plan to boost mental health services as it portrays Scott Morrison as a threat to Medicare
- Telehealth consultations were greatly expanded due to the Covid-19 pandemic
- Video psychiatric consultations through GP referrals were scrapped on January 1
- Labor said it ‘understands the importance of mental health care for Australians’
Labor has vowed to restore telehealth psychiatric consultations for people living in regional and rural Australia, while portraying Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a danger to Medicare.
Health is shaping up to be one of the major battlegrounds in the federal election, which will be held on May 21.
‘Scott Morrison’s cuts to regional mental health consultations during a pandemic which has seen people struggling with mental health issues are unconscionable,’ Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Monday night.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese (pictured) reacts as he speaks with nurses in Tasmania on Monday, April 11, 2022
Labor has vowed to restore telehealth psychiatric consultations for people living in regional and rural Australia. Pictured is a stock image of a telehealth consultation
Telehealth consultations were greatly expanded due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, allowing patients in rural and regional areas to get regular, bulk-billed phone or video sessions.
On December 13, the Department of Health announced $106million to make telehealth a permanent fixture of primary healthcare.
But just three days later, 27 items were amended and 128 scrapped, including video psychiatric consultations through GP referrals.
Then on January 1, the federal government removed a 50 per cent loading for some rural psychiatric services, meaning many providers were no longer able to bulk-bill their services.
‘Labor will restore these vital mental health services, making them affordable and accessible to people wherever they live,’ said Mr Albanese.
Labor said the Coalition government’s cuts had affected patients in regional areas throughout Australia.
‘It has resulted in significant gap fees for psychiatric consultations delivered through videoconferencing to patients living in the regions.
‘It has also seen some psychiatrists withdrawing these services altogether,’ a statement from Mr Albanese and Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said.
Labor has said that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a threat to Medicare. Pictured is a Medicare card
They added that Mr Morrison’s ‘cuts to Medicare bulk billing for psychiatric telehealth shows how his policies are hurting people in regional and rural Australia’.
Labor understands the importance of mental health care for Australians, regardless of where they live,’ the statement said.
‘We will restore a 50 per cent regional loading to telehealth psychiatric consultations, meaning people in the regions will once again be able to have affordable bulk billed telehealth mental health consultations.’
Labor said reinstating Medicare support for telehealth mental health consultations is expected to support 450,000 consultations over the next four years if it wins the election.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) is a threat to Medicare, the Labor Party said
This investment in Medicare is expected to cost $31.3million.
‘Labor built Medicare – and only an Albanese Labor government will strengthen Medicare, by making it easier to see a doctor,’ the statement said.
The Liberal Party has been contacted by Daily Mail Australia seeking comment on this story.