Accessing telehealth support from a GP, allied health provider or specialist services will now continue until December 31, 2021.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the date telehealth services would cease would be pushed back by a further six months, the ABC reported.
“The extensions will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home,” Mr Hunt said.
“The government continues 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,” he added.
The federal government committed billions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate health consultations via video or telephone.
In the 12 months since March 2020, more than 54 million telehealth services were completed for approximately 13.5 million patients.
About $2.8 billion in Medicare benefits were claimed for a whole range of health services, including mental health assessments, check-ups and appointments with a midwife.
As the cut-off date of June 30 for telehealth has loomed, specialists have voiced concern about the consequences of taking the service away too soon. The mental health sector is urging the government to instate a permanent telehealth service for patients, citing a productivity commission recommendation to the same effect.
“We’ve got the economists who wrote the productivity report saying that this is something that should be made permanent, we’ve got mental health professionals saying it, it just seems common sense,” Professor Sam Harvey from the Black Dog Institute said.