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Major Medicare reform makes history for eating disorders treatment in Australia

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 Sunday 9 December 2018 – Today we made history. Families and individuals across the country welcomed today’s announcement by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, of the life changing amendment to the Medicare Benefits Scheme to improve access and affordability of appropriate eating disorders treatment across Australia.

Early in 2018 Butterfly Foundation conducted consumer research to better understand the reality of the cost of eating disorders treatment in Australia. With 1 in 3 people going into debt and 1 in 4 people delaying or stopping treatment because of the cost, it is clear nationwide reform is essential.

Butterfly Foundation CEO, Christine Morgan congratulated the Australian Government for its leadership and welcomed the national recognition of eating disorders in Australia’s health system.

“Today’s long-awaited announcement makes history for those battling eating disorders. Families, carers, clinicians and our sector colleagues, have worked tirelessly with Butterfly for many years to advocate for national health system reform for public and private health treatment for eating disorders. We know from personal stories shared with Butterfly that thousands of Australians suffer serious financial and complex social stresses due to the prohibitive cost of treatment,” Ms Morgan said.

“This breakthrough in the health system means we have taken another step in the right direction when it comes to the treatment of eating disorders. More importantly, it means our government is listening to the personal experiences of Australians in order to inform policy. No Australian, regardless of their financial means, should be placed in further distress while accessing treatment.”

The new Medicare Benefits Scheme support for eating disorders will commence on 1 November 2019, and will include:

  • A dedicated single Medicare Benefits Scheme item number for eating disorder treatment for those with severe and complex illness, delivering up to 60 Medicare funded sessions of treatment – 40 psychotherapeutic and 20 dietetic across the range of eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and atypical presentations
  • Diagnosis by a GP and mental health practitioner recognizing that these psychiatric illnesses have a significant physical impact and integrated treatment is essential.

In 2015, Deloitte Access Economics delivered the Investing in Need report to Butterfly Foundation which quantified the level of investment needed for eating disorders treatment. On hearing of the Government’s commitment today, Lynne Pezzullo,Deloitte Access Economic Lead Partner, Health Economics and Social Policy said “The socio-economic impact of eating disorders on a person’s life is one of the most severe and enduring in Australia. The introduction of a Medicare response into the health system is the most significant and necessary reform. Without a Medicare response other system reforms that are still needed could not be considered.”

Fiona Wright, who has battled her eating disorder for 10 years, knows the crippling costs of treatment all too well. Fiona said that reducing the financial stress will make a huge difference to people seeking treatment.

“My financial stress constantly puts my treatment in jeopardy. I’m not only battling this insidious illness, I’m needing to compromise every other aspect of my life including employment. I can scrape together money to afford to learn to eat, but I then can’t afford to eat. Reducing that stress will mean I can focus on recovery not restructuring my finances,” Fiona said.

Butterfly Foundation will work closely with the Department of Health to ensure all information, as it is made available, is communicated to the community.

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Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 or support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

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Media Contact:
Danielle Cuthbert - The Butterfly Foundation     
0421 978 940  |  danielle.cuthbert@thebutterflyufoundation.org.au
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