The AMA welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement that May Budget cuts to mental health services are hurting patients but its decision not to reverse cuts to Medicare funding for GP mental health services is disappointing.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the Government has failed to address the fact that the Budget cuts to Medicare rebates for general practice mental health services are having a detrimental impact on patients.
“Medicare data shows that since the Government cut Medicare rebates for GP mental health services, the number of GP mental health care plans has dropped by over six per cent compared to the same period in the year before,” Dr Steve Hambleton said.
“This decline is a direct result of the $400 million cut in the May Budget from these key mental health services.
“It is clear that the cuts have made it harder for patients with mental illness to access high quality GP care, and this is having a heavy impact on one the most vulnerable groups in society.
“Fewer mental health services are being provided and patients face higher out of pocket costs.
“Government changes have seen patients with mental illness have their Medicare entitlement slashed by up to almost half.
“The Government has ignored an independent evaluation showing that the Better Access Program is cost effective and is making a positive difference to the lives of people suffering from mental illness.
“The program has previously been supporting the delivery of GP mental health services at the local community level to around 1 million people each year.
“However, these cuts have sent the program into reverse - despite assurances from Government officials that this would not happen.
“The AMA is again calling on the Government to fully restore the Better Access funding and reverse the decline in GP mental health services.”
1 February 2012
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