The Federal Government has introduced Medicare telehealth items which provide access to telehealth for everyone with a Medicare card. Considering the current climate, it is important that we all promote telehealth to the communities and clients accessing our services.
The new temporary Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS) telehealth items allow all Australians to access essential Medicare-funded health services with the aim of reducing exposure to COVID -19. These items are in place until 30 September 2020 and are not just for diagnosing or treating COVID-19.
These items are available to general practitioners (GPs), medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, participating midwives and allied health providers. The legislation states that these services, when provided by GPs and other medical practitioners must be bulk billed for Commonwealth concession card holders, children and those more vulnerable to COVID-19.
You are considered more vulnerable if you:
- those required to self-isolate or self-quarantine
- at least 70 years old
- identifiy as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and are at least 50 years or older
- are pregnant
- have a child under 12 months old
- have a chronic health condition
- are immunocompromised
From 20 April specialists and allied health service providers are not required to bulk bill but they must obtain financial consent from their patient before providing any service.
It is important that all services promote telehealth to their communities to ensure that those most vulnerable are aware that services are just a phone call away; this includes support and counselling for mental health issues. People living with HIV with a Medicare card can access bulk-billed telehealth as they have a chronic health condition; for script repeats, they must be stable and have seen their doctor face to face in the previous 12 months.
Factsheets relating to the new telehealth items are available for health workers and consumers at MBS Online. Information on other changes to the MBS can be accessed on the MBS online website at mbsonline.gov.au. You can also receive news updates by clicking subscribe on the same webpage.