Psychological health for Vulnerable Australians during COVID-19

New COVID-19 Medicare items allow vulnerable/isolated clients to access bulk-billed psychological services delivered via telehealth (i.e., videoconference) or phone.

These items form part of the 10 services allowed per year under the Better Access to mental health care initiative and allow clients who meet the Government’s COVID-19 eligibility criteria to receive services via telehealth and phone. The eligibility criteria is outlined below.

Eligible clients

Vulnerable and isolated clients are eligible to receive telehealth services provided by a psychologist if

  • the person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 virus but who is not a patient of a hospital; or
  • the person has been required to isolate themselves in quarantine in accordance with home isolation guidance issued by Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC); or
  • the person is considered more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus being a person who is:
    • at least 70 years old; or
    • at least 50 years old and is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent; or
    • is pregnant; or
    • is a parent of a child under 12 months; or
    • is already under treatment for chronic health conditions or is immune compromised; or
  • the person meets the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection.
  • the person is referred by:
    • a medical practitioner, either as part of a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan, or as part of a shared care plan or as part of a psychiatrist assessment and management plan; or
    • a specialist or consultant physician specialising in the practice of his or her field of psychiatry; or
    • a specialist or consultant physician specialising in the practice of his or her field of paediatrics; and
  • the service is provided to the person individually; and
  • at the completion of a course of treatment, the referring medical practitioner reviews the need for a further course of treatment; and
  • the service is bulk-billed.