Private insurance reforms on mental health a 'work-around'

Recent federal reforms to private health insurance fail to provide the community-based services people need, Prof Ian Hickie says. The national mental health commissioner described the changes as a ‘work-around’ that will lead to more mental health beds without providing the community-based services people need.

From April people will be able to upgrade their coverage to cover mental health treatment when they need it without facing waiting periods, and basic private policies will include mental health cover as standard.

Under the reforms it will be harder for insurers to place limits on mental health treatments and therapy sessions, such as group counselling sessions, electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation.

But Hickie told Guardian Australia he wanted to know what Health Minister Greg Hunt had planned to increase mental health services available under Medicare so that community-based mental health services would be more readily available.

Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan released

The Federal Government released its updated plan for the around four million people who experience a mental health condition. Health Minister Greg Hunt said this plan would provide a strengthened mental health system and included $47 million for community-focused suicide prevention programs. 

More than 2800 Australians take their lives each year and the Plan will provide an additional focus of suicide prevention he said. The government also launched Head to Health a digital mental health and resources website.

Public Advocate calls for action on deaths in mental health

Public Advocate and Community Visitor Chair Colleen Pearce has called for more to be done to safeguard the health of those in mental health acute units. Tragically, suicides continue to occur in Victorian acute mental health units despite ligature-point audits and other strategies to ensure patient safety, she said. It was the key finding of Community Visitors in their Annual Report 2016-2017.

Report shows 10% of Australians used Medicare-subsidised mental health services

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found that 2.3 million people (or 9.4 per cent) received Medicare subsidised mental health services in 2015-2016, an increase of 1.6 million on the previous year in its Mental Health Services report. It also found an estimated four million people experienced a common mental disorder in 2015.

Submissions around the implementation and performance of the NDIS

You can still make written submissions about the implantation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the parliamentary joint committee investigating the program. For details click here


National NDIS Mental Health Conference, Towards a Good Life, 16-17 November, Sydney
Workshop: Collaboration Complexity & Capability, 20 November, Melbourne
SPHERE 2017 International Symposium, 22–23 November, Sydney
Not-for-profit Leaders Forum, 5-7 December, Sydney