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PACFA submission to Private Health Funds

In 2017, PACFA is making approaches to all Private Health Funds to seek greater recognition for PACFA Registrants through private health rebates for counselling and psychotherapy. This has been identified as a priority in PACFA’s 2016-18 Strategic Plan.

Currently, PACFA Registrants in private practice can offer private health insurance rebates to clients with appropriate Medibank Private cover. As the coverage provided to clients through Medibank Private is limited, the PACFA campaign aims to increase Medibank Private coverage and to extend rebates to the other Private Health Funds.

There is strong evidence for the contribution of counselling and psychotherapy to the prevention and treatment of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and trauma. There is also evidence that many physical ailments have a psychological component and vice versa.

Currently, most PHFs only provide rebates for counselling and psychotherapy provided by psychologists. Some PHFs have an even narrower focus on clinical psychologists. This means client choice in relation to psychological services is limited to psychologists and, as many psychologists principally provide cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), client choice is even further limited to this form of therapy. When it comes to choosing a therapist, choosing the right type of treatment, or deciding on the length of treatment required, a client’s choice will vary greatly depending on their presenting issues, age, temperament, cultural background and geographic location.  All of these factors may lead a client to choose a registered counsellor or psychotherapist instead of a psychologist.

Non-clinical services can and should be provided by counsellors and psychotherapists rather than psychologists. Counselling and psychotherapy, as adjuncts to psychiatric and psychological services, can be successful in symptom reduction and increasing the social functioning of clients. There is a shorter and more effective journey towards wellness for those who are able to access counselling and psychotherapy. For those at risk of developing more serious mental health disorders, people suffering from high prevalence disorders such as depression and anxiety and those needing treatment for issues not effectively treated by Focussed Psychological Strategies, access to private health insurance rebates for counselling and psychotherapy could contribute to the prevention of the more serious consequences – and costs – associated with mental illness.

In the submission, PACFA suggests three possible options for the costing and placement of counselling and psychotherapy rebates within health insurance products. There could be significant public relations benefits to any PHFs that decide to take the lead in the private health insurance sector by offering rebates for counselling and psychotherapy. By offering these rebates, private health insurance has the potential to make a significant difference to the mental health of the Australian community, with the associated improvements in general health and wellbeing. Importantly, there will be financial savings flowing from preventing serious mental health issues and from general improvements in health and well-being as a result of greater access to counselling and psychotherapy.

In the current climate of public concern about the lack of resources being committed to mental health, it is arguable that private health insurance companies cannot afford not to be part of the solution in this important public health issue.

Download PACFA’s Submission to Private Health Funds 2017.