Thanks to increased Medicare rebates from 1st July 2023 – Gap payments are reduced and your share of the total payment is reduced

Cost-Benefit Of Psychological Services: Psychology – Doesn’t Cost It Pays (Updated March 2023)

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has looked at the frequency of mental health problems in the Australian population. This (2020-2021) document notes that:

In 2020-21, of the 19.6 million Australians aged 16-85 years:

  • Over two in five (43.7% or 8.6 million people) had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life.
  • One in five people (21.4% or 4.2 million people) had a 12-month mental disorder (that is, they had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life and had sufficient symptoms of that disorder in the 12 months prior to the survey)
  • There were 4.4 million people (22.3%) who had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life but did not have a 12-month mental disorder.

[It goes on to say]

Prevalence of 12-month mental disorders (ABS)

In 2020-21, one in five people (21.4% or 4.2 million) had a 12-month mental disorder:

  • 16.8% (3.3 million people) had a 12-month Anxiety disorder
  • 7.5% (1.5 million people) had a 12-month Affective disorder
  • 3.3% (650,800 people) had a 12-month Substance Use disorder

In a related vein, a 2019 study by the South Australian Department for Education, about their Employee Assistance Program (or EAP, see the link for a description), showed that “Based on improved absenteeism and presenteeism, measured fiscal benefits per user (1,365.79 Australian dollars [AUD] or 1,021.48 US dollars [USD]) were 3.34 times the costs (409.27 AUD or 306.09 USD), indicating a highly favourable return.”

But how many will actually consider the financial costs versus benefits of making use of the professional services of a psychologist (whether via an EAP program or privately, e.g. via a GP issued Medicare subsidised Mental Health Care Plan) to deal with these mental health conditions?

Cost-Benefit of Psychological Services.

Admittedly, it can be difficult to put a monetary cost of not making use psychological services. Could you put a dollar figure on:

  • The lost productivity from constantly thinking about your unresolved problems.
  • Staying stuck in bed, hiding under the covers, instead of getting to work or study?
  • A “tradie” making mistakes and having to do re-work (or taking longer to complete tasks and get to other jobs) because they “can’t think straight”.
  • Being unable to concentrate because of workplace issues like bullying or other workplace difficulties, or worries from home impacting on work or study.
  • Being so depressed or anxious that you cannot get on with your job?
  • Not being engaged and “present” for your children or spouse.
  • Being unable to cope with changes in your circumstances?
  • Fortunately, there is research that look at this. For example, from the South Australian Department for Education, (as noted above).

How does Psychologist fees (for which you can potentially get a Medicare rebate of at least $89.65 per standard session) compare with other things you could spend your money on?

  • How much would you pay on cigarettes in a week? (To deal with your stress and addiction to nicotine)
  • How much do you spend on Alcohol in a week? (Again, as a way of “relaxing” or dealing with stress.)
  • How much do you spend on Gambling – Pokies, Scratchies, Lotto, TAB, or at a Casino?
  • To fill the car with fuel, or pay for parking or car service?
  • Take-away meals, coffees, lunches or eating out, or a night out?
  • Going to the Hairdressers, Nail Salon, or Beauty Spa?
  • What does Gym Membership cost?
  • Paying for home services – e.g. Lawnmowing, Household cleaning, or to get a “Tradie” to come and do household repairs or provide other services?
  • What does it cost you for childcare?
  • Any other “vices” or hobbies?

It should also be remembered that the Medicare rebate for a 50-minute consultation is about a third of the fee recommended (currently $280 till 30th June 2024) to maintain a financially viable practice. Therefore, it is normal practice to have to pay some sort of a “Gap” fee.

What Do I Get For My Money?

  • A 50-minute consultation with a registered Health Professional where you are the centre of attention (this is a bit different to a coffee with a friend). A psychologist has both professional training and experience in dealing with a wide range of issues and is required to comply with an enforceable Code of Ethics.
  • Depending on circumstances, possibly handouts and or workbooks to work on, or think about between sessions. Or there may be suggestions of books to read or movies to watch to assist you in dealing with your issues or concerns.
  • An opportunity to look at your concerns with someone “a few steps removed”
  • An ongoing professional therapeutic relationship
  • A setting where you can be sure that (basically, except for Emergency situations) what you say will stay in the counselling room and not be disclosed to others.

Summary

Mental health issues are relatively common. Although it may be difficult to put a monetary figure on how much you will save, it is fairly clear that one of the reasons that Medicare subsidises Psychologist consultations is because “Talking Therapies” work.
Colin Longworth – Psychologist
March 2023.

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