Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coming Soon: The Return of the Worried Well

MENTAL health treatment could fall victim to the Rudd Government's budget razor gang, with Health Minister Nicola Roxon flagging cuts to Medicare coverage for the mentally ill...

Asked whether the Rudd Government would keep the present funding for the program, Ms Roxon said it was looking at ways to spend money more "effectively" and would not rule out cuts the Medicare-funded mental health program.

"I'm not going to rule things in and out, but we are certainly looking at ways mental health money is being spent to make sure it is effectively being used in the community," Ms Roxon said.

She said she was reviewing which treatments Medicare would continue to fund...

Ms Roxon said she had been alerted to possible misuse of the services. "I certainly won't rule out that part of my job as Health Minister is to make sure that money is being spent effectively … for people who have mental health problems." (The Age, emphasis added)
I'd say that Leo Shanahan's parsing of Roxon's statements on the Mental Health Reform Package is pretty well spot on - "looking at the way money is spent to make sure it is effectively being used" is fairly obvious bureaucratese for "looking for any spending cuts we can conceivably get away with". And when a minister mentions "possible misuse" of services, it's pretty much a dead cert that the cuts will be found.

It won't take long, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, for the "possible misuse" Roxon mentions will have become "public concerns over possible misuse of health funds" then "a public perception of misuse of health funds" and on to "public outrage over the rorting of Medicare rebates under the so-called Mental Health Reform Package". This scandalous misuse of the taxpayer dollar will, of course, be a very bad thing for working famblies. It will have to be stopped.

Is the money really being spent on "people who have mental health problems"? Here's a web page that says it is, but clearly the page is out of date:
Who benefits [from the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medical Benefits Schedule Initiative]?

Patients with a clinically diagnosed mental disorder who would benefit from a structured approach to the management of their care needs, using the short to medium term treatment available under the Better Access items.

Reading Shanahan's report didn't do anything for my depression, but it worked wonders on the constipation.

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