Since 13 March 2020, the Australian Government has been providing temporary access to Medicare benefits for certain medical services to protect Australians during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
On 14 March 2021, the Government announced that it will invest more than $1.1 billion to extend the national health response and suppression strategy to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this response, the temporary Medicare telehealth and telephone services will continue until 30 June 2021.
This extension accords with the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) which recommended an extension of the temporary access to Medicare benefits for telehealth and phone consultation items and specific COVID-19 pathology testing items to provide a nationally consistent and coordinated approach to COVID-19 management that ensures containment and suppression with efforts that are rapidly deployable, flexible and scalable.
The Health Insurance Legislation Amendment (Extend Cessation Date of Temporary COVID-19 Items) Determination 2021 amends the cessation date of the Health Insurance (Section 3C General Medical Services – COVID-19 Telehealth and Telephone Attendances) Determination 2020 which lists the temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth and telephone items that are available to general practitioners (GPs), medical practitioners, specialists, consultant physicians, nurse practitioners, participating midwives, allied health providers and dental practitioners in the practice of oral and maxillofacial surgery. It also amends the cessation date of the Health Insurance (Section 3C General Medical – Expansion if GP and Allied Health Mental Health Services) Determination 2020 which is for additional mental health support services and the Health Insurance (Section 3C Pathology Services – COVID-19) Determination 2020 which is for rapid SARS-COV-2 testing.
A person who is in a flood affected area is a patient who, at the time of accessing a telehealth service, is living in a local government area that is declared by a State or Territory Government to be a natural disaster area due to flood. People in these areas can access telehealth services from any GP or other medical practitioner. The MBS COVID-19 telehealth items are due to cease on 30 June 2021.
To find out if you are living in a disaster-declared local government area, please consult the emergency services department of your state or territory Government.