Joint Media Release: Labor Cuts Medicare Supports

2023 is already off to a bitter start for many vulnerable Australians as the Albanese Labor Government officially slashes mental health supports provided through the Better Access program.

On the first day of the new year, the Labor Government has blatantly cut Medicare, showing a complete disregard for the importance of accessible mental health support for Australians, particularly as the community continues to face difficult times.

The Better Access mental health initiative will be slashed from 20 Medicare-subsided psychology sessions to only 10 sessions, despite experts warning that the traumas of the pandemic and other pressures continue to impact lives.

Instead of proactively working to continue to improve mental health supports, particularly for Australians with complex circumstances, the Labor Government has just completely cut additional support for everyone.

This is a tragic repeat of history, as the current Health Minister cut the same program back in 2011. The Labor Government is once again disregarding experts, peak bodies, and medical professionals who have all called for these psychology sessions to be re-instated.

Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Anne Ruston said, “the Labor Government should be providing tangible solutions to address the critical issue of workforce shortages in the mental health sector, instead of cutting additional psychology sessions at a time when Australians are facing natural disasters, cost of living pressures, and household energy bills are skyrocketing.”

“These cuts simply put more pressure on hardworking psychologists and mental health practitioners who will now be forced to try and space out appointments with patients throughout the year, in a bid to make the Medicare-subsided sessions last. By not addressing the underlying workforce issues, the Labor Government is abandoning the essential mental health workforce,” Senator Ruston said.

The Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Melissa McIntosh MP, says despite the clear need for these sessions to continue, the Government has ignored the pleas of Australians, and have pushed forward with the cuts.

“I have heard from many families across Australia who have relied on the 20 sessions for their children. Helping people through what has been the toughest of times in recent history is what the extra 10 sessions, implemented by the former Coalition Government, was about.

“If the Albanese Government has a plan to take the mental health of Australians seriously, people deserved to know what that plan is before the cuts were made. Right now there is no plan, just heartless cuts to a much needed service for vulnerable Australians,” Mrs McIntosh said.

The Labor Government’s decision to cut this important additional support is bitterly disappointing, especially after the Coalition, with the support of the Senate, voted to reinstate the additional sessions under the Better Access initiative. The Labor Government is even ignoring the will of the Senate.

The Prime Minister and the Health Minister have demonstrated that the Labor Government is prioritising the Budget bottom line over the mental health of vulnerable Australians.

Labor has turned its back on vulnerable Australians needing its support.

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