What the Medicare changes mean for me

30 Oct, 2019

The lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians living with eating disorders (ED) could start to improve from November 1, 2019, when major changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) scheme take effect.

In a landmark change for eligible Australians with eating disorders, up to 60 rebated treatment sessions, including 40 rebated psychological therapy sessions and 20 dietetic sessions, will now be available.

Carer Bronny Carroll describes the changes as “life-changing”

Mother-of-four, Bronny Carroll, realised one of her daughters was starting to show signs of disordered eating when she was just 11 years old, and at age 12 she was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. Her daughter is now 31 and has been chronically unwell with Anorexia Nervosa for 20 years.

Bronny is incredibly grateful for the Government’s Medicare reforms for eating disorders that come into effect on November 1, 2019. She says it will help to ease the enormous financial burden on people with an eating disorder and their families.

As a mother of four children, Bronny knows how to cope with the challenges life throws at you. But when her child developed Anorexia Nervosa at the age of 11, there was little support available.

“When my daughter developed an eating disorder it was confronting. My aim was always to try and keep the other children as settled and on track as possible while we were dealing with the devastation and seriousness of our daughter’s illness,” Bronny said.

After finishing her schooling, with some of it completed via distance education from hospital, her daughter eventually chose to withdraw from treatment and moved overseas.

“She became seriously unwell and had to be escorted home to Australia after three years living in England and Norway. She was dangerously unwell and was admitted to hospital a week later. She’s been acutely unwell for the three years since she returned home, with numerous hospital admissions.

“Her treatment plan, as it stands at this point, involves a weekly GP visit, a psychologist twice weekly, and she should see a dietitian weekly, but she’s cut that back,” said Bronny.

“As her carer, I need to have my own treatment. I see a psychologist every week so I can anticipate the rest of the family’s needs, reactions and responses and try to keep it all together.”

Bronny is relieved her family’s situation is being acknowledged by the Government with additional support through the MBS reform.

“To actually have this acknowledged by Government at last is fantastic. Not only for me, but for my whole family and other families who may have been feeling isolated.

Most importantly, Bronny is relieved families can now receive financial help.

“Some families have to mortgage their homes, take their children out of schools and stop treatment. It’s prohibitively expensive and it’s not a quick fix. To have that financial burden shared is going to be life changing for patients and their carers.

“It’s a very welcome start. We are so grateful. There is no doubt this will make a difference for us and for every family in this situation,” Bronny said.

Bronny serves as a member of the InsideOut Institute’s advisory board and also acts as a carer consultant for the Institute, to help others living with an eating disorder and their carers.

Psychologist Dr Helen Rydge looks forward to seeing patients through their full treatment

InsideOut Institute's Clinical Stream Lead Dr Helen Rydge has been working with people with eating disorders for 15 years.

She says the changes are a fantastic improvement to what has previously been a sometimes abridged treatment plan of just 10 rebated psychology sessions.

“We know that the evidence-base usually involves about 20 to 40 sessions for adequate treatment, and we’ve never been able to do that without it really costing the families a lot of money,” Dr Rydge said.

“This change will allow us to be able to start with a patient and hopefully see them through the course of treatment towards recovery.

“Not only is this better for the patient, it’s really rewarding as a psychologist as well, to see someone get through treatment, rather than giving them little bits of treatment here and there.”

Dr Rydge expects the increased Medicare support to go hand-in-hand with improved outcomes for those living with eating disorders.