Australian Government expenditure

Australian Government expenditure on mental health‑related services

Australian Government expenditure on mental health-related services was estimated to be $3.1 billion in 2015–16. However, as noted previously and detailed in the data source section of this report, there are other known Australian government outlays attributable to supporting mental health issues which are not included in this estimate for example, disability support pensions and the contribution to public hospital costs.

Australian Government expenditure on mental health-related services, adjusted for inflation, increased by an average annual rate of 3.5% between 2011–12 and 2015–16. This equates to an increase of $10 per person, adjusted for inflation, from $121 per person in 2011–12 to $131 in 2015–16.

Expenditure on MBS-subsidised mental health-specific services and medications provided through the PBS accounted for 53.5% of the total in 2015–16 (Figure EXP.2). The next largest component was spending on National programs and initiatives managed by the Department of Health (19.8%), Department of Social Services (7.8%) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (6.1%). Since 2007–08, there has been a decrease in the cost of PBS subsidised prescriptions and an increase in MBS-subsidised services and programs and National programs and initiatives. (See the data source section for technical information regarding the calculation of these figures.)

Source data: Expenditure on mental health-related services (510KB XLS).

Australian Government expenditure on Department of Defence funded programs has increased an average of 17.9% per year for the period 2011–12 ($23.5 million) to 2015–16 ($45.5 million), adjusted for inflation. The expenditure covers a range of mental health programs and services delivered to Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel. When the number of permanent ADF personnel is taken into consideration (58,578 people; Department of Defence, 2016 ) this equates to $777 per permanent ADF member in 2015–16.

Australian Government expenditure on Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services

More recent expenditure data for 2016–17 Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services is presented in this section. These services include mental health-specific services provided by psychiatrists, general practitioners (GPs), psychologists (both clinical and other), and other allied health professionals. These services are defined in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Refer to the data source section for further information on the estimation of GP expenditure prior to 2007–08.

In 2016–17, $1.2 billion was paid in benefits for Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, equating to 5.3% of total Medicare expenditure ($22.3 billion) (DHS 2017). Expenditure for services provided by psychologists ($517 million or 43.7%) made up the largest proportion, comprising mostly Psychological Therapy Services (clinical psychologists; $275 million) and Focused Psychological Strategies (other psychologists; $238 million). Expenditure on services provided by psychiatrists was the next largest expenditure group ($350 million or 29.5%). GP expenditure comprised $285 million (24.1%) of total Medicare subsidised mental health-related benefits.

Nationally, benefits paid for Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services averaged $48 per person in 2016–17, adjusted for inflation to 2015–16 prices (Figure EXP.3). The average benefits paid per person in Victoria ($55 per person) was the highest, while those in the Northern Territory were the lowest ($14 per person).

Source data: Expenditure on mental health-related services (510KB XLS).

There was an average annual increase of 5.7% in the total expenditure on Medicare-subsidised mental health related services (adjusted for inflation) between 2012–13 and 2016–17. This change equates to an average annual increase (per person) in spending of 4.1%, adjusted for inflation, from $41 in 2012–13 to $48 in 2016–17.

Australian Government expenditure on mental health-related subsidised prescriptions

More recent expenditure data for 2016–17 PBS/RPBS mental health-related subsidised prescriptions are presented in this section. For information on data quality, coverage and other aspects of the PBS and RPBS refer to the data source section. See the related Prescriptions section for information about the PBS and RPBS system and data on the number of prescriptions.

Australian Government expenditure on mental health-related subsidised prescriptions under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) was $511 million, or $21 per person, in 2016–17. This was equivalent to 4.1% of all PBS and RPBS subsidies ($12.4 billion) (DHS 2017). Prescriptions for antipsychotics (49.2%) and antidepressants (34.3%) accounted for the majority of mental health-related PBS and RPBS expenditure in 2016–17, followed by prescriptions for psychostimulants and nootropics (9.9%), anxiolytics (4.1%) and hypnotics and sedatives (2.5%).

Tasmania ($27 per person) had the highest per capita cost of PBS/RPBS medications, and the Northern Territory ($11) the lowest, compared with the national cost ($21) (Figure EXP 4). For most states and territories, the cost of antipsychotics was the largest proportion of PBS/RPBS costs, followed by antidepressants, except for Tasmania where the cost of antidepressants was more than antipsychotics.

Source data: Expenditure on mental health-related services (510KB XLS).

Around three quarters (74.6% or $381 million) of the expenditure on mental health-related subsidised prescriptions was for prescriptions issued by general practitioners (GPs). This was followed by prescriptions written by psychiatrists ($88 million or 17.2%), with non-psychiatrist specialists’ prescriptions accounting for 8.0% ($41 million). Around $1.0 million of prescriptions were issued where the specialty of the prescriber was unknown.

Real expenditure (constant prices) for mental health-related prescriptions consistently declined between 2012–13 and 2016–17, from $785 million to $511 million. This was likely to be the result of a decrease in the subsided cost of some medications and a decrease in the number of people receiving subsidised mental health-related prescriptions.