Health minister Greg Hunt has announced the federal government will extend Medicare benefits for healthcare consultations delivered via telehealth until the end of 2021.
He said the extension will be part of the 2021-22 budget with an investment of more than $114 million.
Telehealth items were rapidly implemented in March 2020 in response to restrictions imposed as part of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between 13 March 2020 and 21 April 2021, over 56 million COVID-19 MBS telehealth services have been delivered to 13.6 million patients, with $2.9 billion in Medicare benefits paid. More than 83,540 providers have used telehealth services.
“The extension will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home. This allows vulnerable Australians to feel protected and supported during these unprecedented times,” said Minister Hunt.
“It is critical that Australians continue to look after their health and stay engaged with your primary care providers.”
Minister Hunt said the extension of telehealth includes services for general practitioners, medical practitioners, specialists, consultant physicians, nurse practitioners, participating midwives, allied health providers and dental practitioners.
He also said the government will continue to work with peak bodies to co-design permanent post-pandemic telehealth as part of broader primary care reforms to modernise Medicare and provide flexibility of access to primary and allied healthcare services.