Feds extend telehealth MBS items for six months, remove bulk-billing requirement

The federal government has agreed to extend the temporary MBS item numbers for telehealth introduced in March to combat the coronavirus pandemic for another six months.

While bulk-billing will still be available it will be voluntary, with medical and allied health practices able to apply their regular fees. Subsidised home delivery of medicines will also continue.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: Telehealth, COVID-19

Comments  

+1 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-19 10:27
Just for information, from 1 October, the Medicare benefits (rebates) for the bulk-billing incentive item numbers will be halved (back to what they were before the telehealth item numbers were introduced).

The benefits (rebates) will be $6.45 (metro) and $9.80 (regional, rural, and remote).

The numbers are 10990 and 10991 (for concession card holders and children under 16) and 10981 and 10982 (for COVID-19 vulnerable patients eg 70 or over, chronic disease etc)
0 # Concerned patient 2020-09-21 18:14
Hi Andrew,
Thank you for the above information, it helps. Given you know so much about telehealth, I'm wondering/hopin g you can help me understand something - I downloaded two telehealth apps on the weekend trying to get a mental health care plan and they both said they don't do them and I had to visit a doctor physically. Would you know why and is this an industry-wise thing or just (coincidentally ) specific to these two apps I used?
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-21 19:52
Hi, thank you for your question.
The answer is 'it depends'.
To be eligible for the Medicare telehealth item numbers (video or phone) for a Mental Health Treatment Plan, this needs to be with your 'usual GP' with whom you have 'an existing relationship', which is defined as at least one face-to-face (in person) consultation with the GP (or with a doctor through the Clinic's after-hours service) within the previous 12 months.
There are exemptions: children under 12 months, homeless people, First Nations peoples, and people living in areas affected by COVID-19 lockdown stage 3 or stage 4 (eg Melbourne currently).
So, if you have seen the GP in the previous 12 months for an in-person consultation, you are eligible for the Medicare benefit (rebate) for the Mental Health Treatment Plan consultation by telehealth, and the item number applies (you need the item number to be eligible for the Medicare rebates for attending a psychologist).
If you haven't seen the GP within the previous 12 months, and you're in Melbourne, then you're eligible for the Medicare benefit (rebate) for the Mental Health Treatment Plan consultation by telehealth, and the item number applies (you need the item number to be eligible for the Medicare rebates for attending a psychologist).
The GP has discretion, and even if you're eligible for a Mental Health Treatment Plan consultation by telehealth, the GP may require you to attend for an in-person consultation for this.
Otherwise, you're not eligible for a Mental Health Treatment Plan consultation by telehealth, and you will need to attend the GP for an in-person consultation for a Mental Health Treatment Plan consultation..
Alternatively, if you have attended another GP within the past 12 months, then you could possibly see that GP for a Mental Health Treatment Plan consultation by telehealth.
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-21 19:53
Items 10981 and 10982 (for COVID-19 vulnerable patients eg 70 or over, chronic disease etc) will be deleted on 1 October.
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-19 11:12
Will Australian Government, via Primary Health Networks, continue to provide ongoing funding for 'Healthdirect Video Call' for GPs and for other health practitioners?
0 # Kate McDonald 2020-09-19 12:11
I have a query in with the Department of Health on that, along with whether SMSs will continue to be subsidised.
0 # Kate McDonald 2020-09-22 16:07
So the answer is yes, they are going to continue to subsidise Healthdirect for GPs until next March. Same with SMSs for eScripts.
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-19 13:10
What are the SMSs, Kate?
0 # Kate McDonald 2020-09-19 13:16
They've been subsidising the SMSs used to send eScripts.
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-19 13:18
Thanks, Kate, I didn't know that. And I don't know if this will be continued. I'll check on GPDU to see if someone has some inside knowledge
0 # Kate McDonald 2020-09-19 13:28
With each SMS costing about 4c, which the govt is paying for during the eScripts trial, will practices just look at the numbers after the trial and say, we've already paid for the paper so why bother paying 4c for the SMS?

Don't know if anyone has emailed a token as yet.
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-19 13:41
Interesting - good point. I think that continuation of ePrescriptions will be driven by both doctors and patients. The efficiency and the convenience are impressive. Particularly for telehealth (no paper, no signature). Practices will need to retain 'some' paper prescription forms for patients who prefer the paper option. Otherwise - there's a lot of recycling there.

I have only used SMS both as prescriber and patient. I can't envisage any problems with using email. Or perhaps, for simplicity, the email option could be simply removed?
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-19 13:29
Do you know if private (non-PBS) drugs can be prescribed using ePrescriptions (that is, the token model)?
0 # Kate McDonald 2020-09-19 13:36
Not sure. I’ll look into it
0 # Andrew Baird 2020-09-19 15:29
Confirmed. Private (non-PBS) drugs can be prescribed using ePrescriptions

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