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Medicare Support for Eating Disorders: What’s changed?

The 1st of November 2019 marked the release of a very important and welcomed change to the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS). Now, 64 new MBS items have been introduced as per a model of best practice evidence-based care to support people living with a diagnosed eating disorders (recommended in 2018 by the independent clinician-led MBS Review Taskforce).

It has been so great to see the Australian Government get behind this change. Eating disorders are a serious mental illness that have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Currently around 4% of the Australian population is experiencing an eating disorder. This is close to one million people. Eating disorders do not discriminate and not only impact the person experiencing the disorder, but also their family, friends and community.

This will mean that eating disorders are now the only specific mental health diagnosis receiving dedicated funding through the MBS. Eligible patients with a diagnosed eating disorder will be able to receive a Medicare rebate when they see an eligible provide under an Eating Disorder treatment and management plan. This will include support from:

  • Up to 40 evidence based eating disorder psychological treatment services in a 12 month period. (Limited to a defined list)
  • Up to 20 dietetic services, in a 12 month period, depending on their treatment needs.

There is good intention to make sure the health care practitioner providing support is suitably trained in providing such treatment. A list of such experienced professionals can be found on the website of the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders. This is a list of practitioners who self-identify as having experience in the field of eating disorders, and as members of Australia’s leading body for health professionals (ANZAED), these members are likely to participate in ongoing professional development in the field of eating disorders.

Patients who do not fit the eligibility criteria for the MBS Eating Disorders Treatment Pathway may be eligible for treatment under the Better Access to Mental Health treatment pathway. There will be an evaluation of the new items after 12 months to assess if the items are operating as intended for patients, providers and the Government.

Other helpful links for information also include:

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