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Understanding costs

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Worrying about cost can often stop us from reaching out for help. It’s helpful to know what the costs are for different services, and where to find mental health services for free or low cost.  

Costs can vary depending on the service, how you access it, and where you live. It's a good idea to ask every service provider you intend to see about what you might have to pay. If cost is a concern, your GP may be able to point you to options that are right for you. 

Remember that you always have options, whatever your situation.


Free or low-cost services 

You can access many care and support services for free. This includes: 

  • Head to Health adult mental health centres 
  • a range of digital mental health services 
  • some services provided by your local Primary Health Network 
  • mental health services provided by the State or Territory government 
  • treatment as a public patient in public hospitals.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) also provide free or low-cost services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Phone and online services are often a great way to get support for free or low cost. You can find a range of trusted Australian services on this website

Appointments with a mental health professional may be partially or entirely covered by Medicare. If a doctor or provider ‘bulk bills’, then they charge Medicare directly and won’t charge you for the service or treatment. 

Support through the Better Access initiative 

The Australian Government’s Better Access initiative can provide Medicare rebates for psychological services. If you are eligible, you can receive up to 10 individual and 10 group services each year provided by your:

  • GP
  • psychiatrist
  • psychologist
  • social worker
  • occupational therapist.

This helps to cover the costs of accessing psychological services. You can claim a rebate for different amounts depending on the type of professional you see.  

Most of the services offered under Better Access are provided by psychologists. Many psychologists offer telehealth and face-to-face sessions. 

Accessing rebates 

You may be eligible if you have: 

  • a mental health diagnosis, and
  • a mental health treatment plan from your GP, and
  • a referral from your GP.

In some cases, your GP may first refer you to a psychiatrist (or for children, to a paediatrician) for further assessment. The psychiatrist can then also provide a referral for psychological services under Better Access. 

You cannot access the rebates for all your sessions at once. After each course of treatment, you’ll need to see your GP again. They will check in with you about the progress of your treatment. The health professional you are seeing will also provide your GP with a progress report. Your GP can then refer you for extra sessions.

Learn more about the Better Access Initiative.

When you might have to pay 

The amount of a service fee not covered by Medicare or private health insurance is known as the ‘out-of-pocket cost’ or ‘gap fee’. Gap fees are common in many situations.

You will need to pay the gap fee for appointments with a health professional unless they agree to bulk bill you. This includes GPs, specialist medical doctors, and mental health professionals (such as psychologists) working in private practice. Many health professionals will bulk bill or offer a discounted fee if you are experiencing financial difficulty. They may also do this if you have a government-issued healthcare card. Ask your health provider about your options. 

You may come across gap fees if you decide to get treatment as a private patient in a private or public hospital. These costs may be for services such as: 

  • doctors or other health care providers 
  • hospital accommodation 
  • medications 
  • pathology (such as blood tests) 
  • appointments or diagnostic tests outside of the hospital 
  • private hospital emergency departments 

It’s best to talk to your private health insurer and health providers about costs before agreeing to treatment.  

For estimates on what you may have to pay, try the Medical Costs Finder.

Private health insurance

If you wish to get treatment as a private patient, then private health insurance may help cover costs. It may also be your best option if you are unable to access Medicare. You will need to pay regular fees to a registered health insurer for a private insurance policy. 

Your insurance policy may reduce the costs of private treatment in a hospital. It may also help to cover costs of psychology sessions. 

Private health insurance does not cover payments for out-of-hospital medical services. This includes visits to your GP or a specialist. 

Learn more about private health insurance.


Support for carers

You may be eligible for extra financial support when caring for someone.  The two main payments are Carer Payment and Carer Allowance.  

  • Carer Payment is available for eligible people providing ongoing care full-time. It offers an income payment if you are unable to support yourself due to your caring role. 
  • Carer Allowance is available for eligible people providing daily care and support to someone in a private home. It grants you a fortnightly pay supplement, and you can access this on top of other support payments. 

Read more about financial support options for carers on the Services Australia website

The Carer Gateway can also provide financial and practical support to carers. They can help you find local services and support options no matter where you live.