Bulk billing clinical psychologist

Hi
I’m looking for a bulk billing clinical psychologist, or at least one who charges low fees for my elderly mother. She has a mental health plan and is a pensioner. The psychologist her GP referred us to charges $185 per session up front and she could claim back $85. The fees to cover the gap seem high to me, though I haven’t much experience or knowledge to go by.

Another problem is that $185 per session is well out of her means, which would mean me covering the bill and relying on my mother to partially pay me back via the Medicare claim process. She has only ever used bulk billed or free medical services, isn’t computer literate and distrusts Internet banking, so this would be challenging to say the least.

We are in Sydney. Would welcome any advice.

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The caveat is whether a particular provider will be the “right one” for your mum. The interpersonal chemistry is all important.

Google “bulk bill clinical psychologist” for her particular area. You could start by ringing some practices and asking the important financial questions, as well as whatever they will tell you about how their providers work. Don’t expect much from the latter excepting a feel for how the practice deals with people (eg caring, terse, busy, interested in your custom, open, etc).

Last comment, although web sites can be useful guides, never confuse the quality of a web site with the quality of the people or company behind that web site. They could be the same, or not.

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Hi Shan, I have noticed that the family medical centre where I see my GP in Petersham offers bulk billing clinical psychology. http://www.pfmc.net.au/medical-services/

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Hi Shan, I would definitely ring around. There are some allied health care providers (e.g. psychologists, physios) who will bulk bill for clients with health care cards (assuming your mother as a pensioner has a health care card). Your mother’s GP may also know who will bulk bill and who won’t based on feedback from patients.

I had some health problems a few years ago between study and work and was seeing an immunologist who was normally very expensive, but would bulk bill patients with a health care card.

@PhilT is also correct in saying you’ll need to find someone who is the “right one”. My psychologist friends tell me that they often encourage patients to explore the relationship between patient/psychologist and shop around until they find someone who works for them - the practitioner absolutely won’t begrudge you for shopping around in this instance.

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Your mother can get 5 free visits p/a through her GP. I am surprised that he didn’t offer this. As someone else said, with mental health issues, finding a person that she “clicks” with is more important then the cost

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Thanks for all the help and advice. The psychologist that my Mum’s GP originally referred us to decided to bulk bill, so we are going ahead. Fingers crossed and hoping that counselling helps.

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I was under the impression that if you have a Care Plan through your GP then you are entitled to a number of consultations without being out of pocket. Might be worth going back to your mums GP and checking if the correct paperwork was sent. In Victoria Care Plans are based on the Medicare rebate so you don’t have to seek reimbursement for the out of pocket.

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Mum is on a mental health plan, which entitles her to
12 sessions with a psychologist with a GP review after 6 sessions. Medicare will reimburse $84.50 per session, either directly to the service provider if they bulk bill or to the patient if the psychologist prefers to be paid up front. The psychologist is not under any obligation to only charge the amount Medicare will reimburse, so if they decide to charge more the patient has to cover the gap out of their own pocket.

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Under an EPC plan, some patients may be eligible for a medicare rebate for 5 visits to a paramedical service per calendar year.
To qualify, the patient must have a chronic medical condition and have 3 people in their team of carers which can include their GP.
This is a rebate, not a guarantee that it will be free. And the rebate is not much. It is less than that provided under a Mental Health Care Plan.

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Hi Shan just saw your comment about the doctor deciding to bulk bill… That’s wonderful. You certainly can do without the stress of medical bills when you are dealing with health issues. All the best with your mum.

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A Mental Health Care plan is easier to qualify for and provides a greater rebate, increasing the chance that the rebate will be accepted as full payment (Bulk billing).
The first Mental Health Care Plan provides 6 rebateable sessions. If the psychologist and the GP consider it appropriate a further allocation of 4 rebateable sessions can be applied for. A maximum of 10 rebateable sessions per calendar year.

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Thank you for that dogboy88k. I didn’t know about the Mental Health Care Plan

TheBBG points it out well. All I can add you go to https://www.psychology.org.au/ and contact them with your question. I am in Western Australia and started seeing a therapist which my Dr arranged. The therapist bulk bills but after 4 sessions she decided I needed a psychotherapist who did not bulk bill and she worked privately. With my consent she he discussed my issues with the psychotherapists and she felt I needed to see her. So what they do is they both see me at the same time and the therapists shares the billing with the psychotherapist and I do not get charged. These services are very needed and unfortunately very expensive.

TheBBG stated "The caveat is whether a particular provider will be the “right one” for your mum. The interpersonal chemistry is all important. " This is extremely true as I have discovered. Prior to this all efforts with psychologists and psychiatrists have failed. It is an expensive merry go round ride if you get caught on it. Sadly, medications are not a fix all or not suitable for every need.

Psychology was my major at university though I did not complete the degree.

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I had also seen 10 rebatable visits mentioned on some Psychology services websites (and 12 on others) but Mum’s GP told us she would be able to get another 6 after her review. I guess we will find out for certain after the 6 session review.

I live by the adage “Citation or STFU” :slight_smile:
So here’s the proof, straight from the source.

Preparation of a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan

“For the purposes of the Medicare rebateable allied mental health items, a course of treatment will consist of the number of services stated on the patient’s referral (up to a maximum of six in any one referral). There may be two or more courses of treatment within a patient’s entitlement of up to ten services per calendar year (up to 16 services from 1 March 2012 to 31 December 2012 where exceptional circumstances apply). The number of services that the patient is being referred for is at the discretion of the referring practitioner (eg. GP).”

So currently, it is 6+4 sessions per calendar year.
Prior to 2013, it was 6+6 or 6+6+6 (in exceptional circumstances)
This might be where some people are getting the number 12 from. But it is incorrect.

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Thanks for the citation - that does explain the different numbers I’ve come across. I guess the GP is either not quite with the times, or just had her head back in 2013 for a moment.

Hi

I’m a Clinical Psychologist, most of us either bulk bill or give a discount rate for low income earners. just ask when you book in. Your GP can also refer you through the Primary Health Network, the scheme is called ATAPS, and it is specifically for disadvantaged groups, pensioners being one. Your GP will have to refer you to a psychologist in the scheme, or the PHN can give you the name of one close to you.You get 6 sessions, then after a review another 6, and in exceptional circumstances a further 6 in a year. Better Access (Medicare) gives you 10 sessions, with a rebate of $124.50 for Clinical Psychologists and $84.40 for Registered Psychologists. These rebates have been frozen for the last 3 years and it looks like this government will continue to do so for at least another 3 years.

If a psychologist is not willing to be flexible with fees, then perhaps they would not be a good fit for her. Whilst our fees may seem high, the sessions are for an hour and with all our additional costs, including a very expensive education, many Tradies make more an hour than we do.

The Australian Psychological Society also has a Find a Psychologist page on its website.

Hope this was helpful,
EB

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That was very helpful, thank you :slight_smile:

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