Labor pledges regional mental health boost

Labor has vowed to reverse a Medicare cut to regional online mental health services if elected.

Online mental health services will become more accessible for regional Australians under a Labor election pledge.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will be in Tasmania on Tuesday where he will announce the restoration of Medicare support for bulk-billed telehealth psychiatric consultations for regional patients.

If elected an Albanese government would reinstate a 50 per cent regional loading to the video consultations.

The Morrison government ended access to bulk billed online psychiatry consultations in the regions in December last year.

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Funding the medical care will cost $31.3 million over four years, and is expected to support 450,000 consultations during that period – or more than 1.4 million appointments over 10 years.

Mr Albanese said Labor would restore the “vital services” and make them affordable “to people wherever they live”.

“Scott Morrison’s cuts to regional mental health consultations during a pandemic which has seen people struggling with mental health issues are unconscionable,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Albanese visited the marginal Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon on Monday.

Speaking in Devonport, Mr Albanese owned up to an embarrassing gaffe where he was unable to say what the cash rate or national unemployment rate were when asked during a press conference in Launceston.

“Earlier today I made a mistake,” he said.

“I’m human, but when I make a mistake, I’ll fess up to it. And I’ll set about correcting that mistake.

“I won’t blame someone else. I’ll accept responsibility. That’s what leaders do.”

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