Medicare-subsidised mental health‑specific services

Medicare-subsidised mental health‑specific services are provided by psychiatrists, general practitioners (GPs), psychologists and other allied health professionals. The services described here are provided in a range of settings—for example, hospitals, consulting rooms, home visits, telephone and videoconferencing—as defined in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Information is presented on both patient and service provider characteristics and is limited to MBS-subsidised services only. These data relate only to mental health services that are claimed under specific mental health care MBS item numbers. Therefore, the reported number of patients who receive mental health-related services is unlikely to represent all patients who receive mental health care. It is unclear how many additional people receive GP mental health-related care that is billed as a consultation against generic GP MBS item numbers. For further information on the MBS data, refer to the data source section on this website.

Additional mental health-specific items are included in the MBS periodically. There were a number of new items introduced during the 2019–20 collection period including:

  • November 2019: to support patients with eating disorders
  • January 2020: for Australians adversely affected by bushfire
  • March 2020: in response to COVID-19 to support provision of care via telehealth.

Data downloads:

Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2019–20 tables (740KB XLSX)

Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2019–20 section (325KB PDF)

Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2019–20 interactive data

Data source and key concepts related to this section.

Data presented covers the time period 1984–85 to 2019–20. This section was last updated in May 2021.

Key points

  • 10.7% of Australians (2.7 million people) accessed 12.4 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services in 2019–20. This is an increase from 6.2% of Australians in 2009–10.
  • 12.8% of Australian females accessed Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services compared to 8.5% of Australian males in 2019–20.
  • 45.3% of Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were provided by psychologists (including clinical psychologists), 30.6%  were provided by GPs and 20.3% were provided by psychiatrists in 2019–20.
  • 11.8% of Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were delivered via telehealth in 2019–20.
  • In the April–June period of 2020 3.2% fewer people accessed services compared to the January–March period of 2020, while 8.4% more services were accessed.

People receiving services

In 2019–20, 2.7 million Australians (10.7% of the population) received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services. Victoria had the highest proportion of the population receiving services (11.4%), closely followed by Queensland (11.2%). The Northern Territory had the lowest proportion of the population receiving services (5.7%) (Figure MBS.1).

Figure MBS.1: Proportion of  population receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by states and territories, 2019-20.

Vertical bar chart showing the proportion of each state and territories population who received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by state or territory in 2019–20. Victoria (11.4%) and Queensland (11.2%) had a higher proportion of the population accessing services than the national proportion (10.7%). New South Wales had 10.4% of their populations receiving services, followed by South Australia (10.3%), Tasmania (10.2%), Western Australia (10.1%), the Australian Capital Territory (9.5%) and the Northern Territory (5.7%). Refer to Table MBS.1.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2019–20 tables (740KB XLSX)

People aged 18–24 years were most likely to receive Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services (15.3% of people aged 18-24 years), followed by 25–34 years (14.5%) and 35–44 years (14.1%) (Figure MBS.2). A higher proportion of females (12.8% of the female population) accessed services compared with males (8.5%). The proportion of the Australian population receiving services varied according to the remoteness area of patient’s residence. The proportion of people receiving services was highest for those living in Major cities and Inner regional areas (11.1%), with the proportion of the population receiving services decreasing with increasing remoteness to 3.1% of people living in Very remote areas.

Figure MBS.2: Proportion of population receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by demographic group 2019-20.

Horizontal bar chart showing the percentage of specific demographic populations who received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services during 2019–20, by key demographics. In 2019–20, patients aged 0–4 years were the lowest users of services (1.0% of people aged 0-4 years). The proportion of each age group population accessing services increased for people aged 5–11 years (6.8%) and 12–17 years (12.5%), and was highest for the age groups 18–24 (15.3%), 25–34 (14.5%) and 35–44 (14.1%); and then gradually decreased for older age groups 45–54 years (12.5%) and 55–64 years (10.0%), 65–74 years (6.8%), 75–84 years (5.2%) and 85 years and over (3.4%). By sex, a greater proportion of the female population (12.8%) accessed services compared with males (8.5%). For remoteness area, the same proportion of people living in Major cities and Inner regional areas (11.1%) accessed services, and the percentage of the population accessing services decreased as remoteness increased: Outer regional (8.7%), Remote (6.1%) and Very remote (3.1%). Refer to Table MBS.2.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2019–20 tables (740KB XLSX)

In 2019–20, 8.8% of the Australian population received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services from a general practitioner; 1.7% received services from a psychiatrist; 2.2% received Psychological Therapy Services from a clinical psychologist; 2.9% received psychology services other than Psychological Therapy Services, from a psychologist (clinical psychologist or other psychologist); and 0.4% received services from other allied health professionals, noting that an individual may receive services from more than one provider type. See General Practice section at end of chapter for further information about mental health-related GP care.

Over time

The number of people receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services increased from 1.4 million (6.2% of Australians) in 2009–10 to 2.7 million (10.7% of Australians) in 2019–20. Increases were seen for all provider types, with the greatest percentage point increase occurring for general practitioners (from 4.8% to 8.8%). The proportion of Australians accessing clinical psychologist MBS services has increased from being lower than the proportion accessing psychiatrist MBS services in 2009–10 to exceeding it in 2019–20 (Figure MBS.3).

Figure MBS.3: Proportion of the Australian population receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by provider type 2009-10 to 2019-20.

Line chart showing the percentage of Australians receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health services by provider from 2009–10 to 2019–20. The percentage of Australians receiving services from psychiatrists increased from 1.3% in 2009–10 to 1.7% in 2019–20, GPs increased from 4.8% to 8.8%, clinical psychologists 1.0% to 2.2%, other psychologists 1.8% to 2.9%, and other allied health providers 0.2% to 0.4%. The percentage of Australians receiving services from all providers increased from 6.2% in 2009–10 to 10.7% in 2019–20. Refer to Table MBS.4.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2019–20 tables (740KB XLSX)

 

General practitioners