Medicare Subsidy & Telehealth Consultations
How does it work?
Telehealth has quickly become accepted, and even preferred, by many Australians. Early in 2020, the Australian Federal Government rolled out MBS (Medicare Benefit Scheme) subsidised Telehealth consultation across the country in response to the unfolding pandemic.
Who is eligible for MBS Telehealth items:
- MBS-subsidised telehealth consultations are available to all medicare-eligible people in Australia.
- The MBS telehealth items are available to Patients who have an established clinical relationship with their GP, OMP (other Medical Practitioner) or medical practice (this is defined as having seen the practitioner for a face-to-face service at least once in the last 12 months). There are exemptions to this requirements as outlined by the Government. (http://www.mbsonline.gov.au/)
- There are no geographical restrictions – the patient and provider can be located anywhere in Australia. This allows patients to connect to their preferred practitioner from anywhere.
- The Government has stated that video conferencing technology (such as GPNow) is the preferred method for Telehealth consultations. Video is preferred to incentivise best practice and patient-first principles.
How are telehealth consultations charged:
Just like a face-to-face consultation, it is at the discretion of your practitioner as to whether they bulk-bill or charge a direct fee. Providers are encouraged by the government to bulk-bill telehealth items.
Medicare rebates are currently only available for telehealth services that are bulk-billed. If you are bulk-billed you will be requested to assign the Medicare benefit you would receive to the medical practitioner.
If your practitioner does not offer bulk-billing, you can still access telehealth but you will be required to pay for your service upfront. It is important that you discuss and understand the cost of your consultation before you begin your appointment. If your consultation is not bulk-billed, you may still be able to claim a reimbursement through other sources, such as Private Health Insurance or NDIS.