Call to extend Medicare for obese
Obese Australians would be able to access Medicare-subsidised sessions with psychologists to help them to lose weight, under a $113 million proposal by the Australian Psychological Society.
In a pre-budget submission to the Federal Government, the society argues that ''behaviour change interventions'' for patients who are obese or have chronic conditions such as diabetes and health disease would save the health system 10 times as much money as they cost to run.
''Health behaviour change interventions are an essential component to the treatment of chronic medical conditions, illnesses and injuries,'' the submission said.
''Without the inclusion of health behaviour change interventions in standard health-care services, the burden of these diseases is expected to continue to rise.''
The Psychological Society wanted chronic-disease Medicare items extended to allow obese or chronically ill patients to access up to 10 sessions a year with a psychologist.
Each session would attract a rebate of $83.25.
Funding would also be made available through Medicare Locals for people from low socio-economic populations and the elderly with chronic illnesses or obesity, to access up to 10 psychology sessions.
''Typically, health behaviour change interventions can achieve substantial benefits within 10 to 12 sessions,'' the submission said.
''These interventions do more than motivate the patient or set health goals, as they include assessment and interventions to develop positive health attitudes and illness beliefs and effective long-term coping strategies for the patient.''
The Psychological Society also asked the Government to partially reverse a $175 million cut to Medicare-subsidised counselling services, which was announced in the budget last year.
In order to direct funding to new mental health services, the Government capped the number of sessions with a psychologist under the Better Access scheme at 10.
The Psychological Society is now lobbying for an additional six sessions to be funded for patients in exceptional circumstances, at a cost $57 million to taxpayers.
The society argued that cuts to the scheme would result in about 87,000 Australians being denied access to the appropriate length of psychological treatment. It said access to additional counselling sessions could be restricted by using strict eligibility criteria.
''Those consumers demonstrating a particular level of severity of psychological distress would be deemed appropriate to access the additional six sessions of psychological treatment,'' the submission said.
The 2011 budget included a $1.5billion funding boost for mental health.