Published 20 April 2020, revised 7 September 2020
To support ongoing access to health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian government recently introduced a range of telehealth measures available through Medicare. The changes were rolled out in several stages and now allow allied health professionals to deliver mental health, chronic disease and autism-related services via telehealth rather than face-to-face.
The initial introduction of those telehealth measures required all allied health telehealth consultations to be bulk-billed. However, the Australian government has since amended the telehealth legislation, allowing allied health practitioners and other health professionals to charge a co-payment for services. The co-payment may be charged regardless of whether those services are provided to children under 16, concession card holders or those vulnerable to COVID-19. These measures come into effect today (Monday 20 April).
AHPA has advocated strongly for these changes, arguing that Medicare payments for allied health services do not cover the costs of providing services. Allied health providers are not able to access bulk-billing incentives or practice incentive payments and cannot charge for multiple items in a single consultation. Allied health services also typically deliver consultations that are two to three times the length of the session duration rebates are based on.
AHPA and its members are committed to providing accessible services and many providers will continue to bulk bill patients who may not otherwise be able to afford services. We also continue to advocate strongly for longer-term reforms to Medicare funding of allied health services to reduce out of pocket costs for Australian consumers.