The Medicare Telehealth Cuts Explained and How They Will Impact You

Telehealth was a legit blessing during the COVID lockdowns. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to get on meds for my anxiety disorder, and not having them would’ve been an unmitigated disaster.

However, as of July, changes have been made to this service. What changes? Well, good luck getting a straight answer from the government’s Medicare Benefits Schedule.

On its factsheet about the telehealth situation they wrote, “A range of temporary specialist telehealth (telephone and video) items ceased on 30 June 2022.” This is followed by providing no clear info on this subject. So thanks for that, gov!

Fortunately, after digging through the mines of bureaucracy, I was able to pull up some primary sources of info. The first important one being an interview the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, did with Luke Grant for 2GB. During this chat, Grant mentioned that phone telehealth appointments for over 70 services, including more than 30 services for complex specialist appointments, have now been scrapped. The minister didn’t dispute Grant’s claims, meaning that there are far fewer telehealth options available for all of us.

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Moreover, while all of these rebates might be missed, there’s one in particular that people are sad they’re losing. On April 13, the Department of Health stated that GP telephone consultations that are longer than 20 minutes won’t be covered by medicare permanently. Like many of the other telehealth resources, this department stated that it would be nixed at the start of July. The decision to follow through with this call has gone on to garner quite a bit of backlash.

On June 30, the Australian Medical Association’s President, Dr Omar Khorshid, criticised the government’s decision to get rid of the longer telehealth call rebates. He said that while Medicare still covers longer video conferences, many people in regional Australia don’t have access to high-speed internet or the right devices to make this option feasible. Khorshid then declared that cutting this rebate will force vulnerable individuals to either risk getting COVID at the doctor’s or avoid getting the help that they need. The doctor asserted, “Both of these are unacceptable outcomes.”

So, there you have it, that’s the current telehealth situation. I’d like to thank the Australian Government for providing no useful resources about this subject and transforming me into a rat traversing a maze made out of website links. That was really cool of you folks.

If you want some more info about what our government’s doing, then here are some useful links:

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