19 May 2010 Health Minister Nicola Roxon has been forced to perform the first Budget back-flip of 2010 less than a week after it was delivered.
The Health Minister announced today that she would defer changes that would have prevented social workers and occupational therapists providing mental health services.
The changes cut-off Medicare rebates for care provided to the mentally ill by the social workers and therapists.
Experts warned the change would hurt thousands of Australians with serious mental health conditions who would not be able to afford treatment without the Medicare payment.
Australian of the Year Professor Pat McGorry estimated the Rudd Government’s actions could close 1,500 doors to early intervention mental health services by the end of June.
Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton said it was yet another example of the Rudd Government rushing ahead with program and policy changes before thinking them through.
“It’s just like the pink batts fiasco and the school halls bungle – this government rushes in without thinking how it might hurt people or how much money it might waste.”
Mr Dutton said social workers and occupational therapists played a significant role in providing mental health services to communities, yet the government’s Budget measures would have denied them funding to provide those services.
“The Rudd Government took this action before finalising a review of mental health service provision under the Better Access program – a review due to be handed to the Government later this year.”
Now it will defer the changes for nine months for consultations to “get it right’, Mr Dutton said.
“Minister Roxon has an unfortunate track record of imposing measures and then having to back-flip – remember the heartless cataract rebate cuts in last year’s Budget that slashed by half the Medicare benefits for this vital surgery for tens of thousands of elderly Australians.”
The Shadow Minister said the 2010 Budget carried a series of back-downs from announcements in the Rudd Government’s previous Budgets.
Media contact – John Wiseman 07 3205 9977 – 0429 983 618