What is a mental health care plan?


4 minutes

08 February 2023

Psychologist sits with young boy and goes through mental health care plan questions

A Mental Health Care Plan is the first step toward getting help with your mental health. It gives you access to specialists and other mental health services, which you can get at a reduced rate through Medicare.

If you've been thinking about seeking support for your mental health and would like some extra information on Mental Health Care Plans, keep reading for a (recently updated) run down on how it all works.

In this article

What is a mental health care plan?

A Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) is a plan you make with your doctor or GP after being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The plan is an important first step toward accessing the help that you need.1

With a mental health care plan, you can get access to 10 mental health appointments per calendar year through Medicare. This is as of Janurary 1st, 2023 whereby prior you had access to 20 sessions.

If you can find a psychologist or psychiatrist that bulk bills, Medicare can cover the full cost of appointments.

If you can’t, Medicare will cover part of the cost.

What is a mental health treatment plan?

Recently the government changed the term Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) to Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP).

They both mean the same thing, but more people say Mental Health Care Plan so that’s what we’ll use in this article.1

How to get a mental health care plan

You can begin by making an appointment with your GP.2 If you don’t currently have a GP, you can find one by:

  • Asking a friend or family member whether they have a GP to recommend.
  • Searching HealthDirect
  • Searching your area at HotDoc website or app.

When you make an appointment:

  • Let the clinic know that you would like a longer appointment2 - you have the option to select your appointment time, particularly through the app or website. 
  • Let your doctor know what is going on for you. Be specific, and know that except in exceptional cases, what you talk about will be confidential.2
  • In the appointment you might also be asked to:

  • Fill out a simple questionnaire about your health in recent times.
  • Make another appointment to check whether a MHCP is right for you.2
  • Discuss medications that might help with depression or anxiety.3

Your doctor will write a MHCP with you that include goals for your mental health that you agree on together.4 As part of the plan, you might be referred to:2

  • A psychologist for talk therapy.
  • A psychiatrist to speak about medication.
  • Another health care specialist such as an Occupational Therapist.

How to use a mental health care plan with Medicare

Accessing your Medicare rebate is simple with a Mental Health Care Plan.3

Things to keep in mind:3

  • You can choose the professional that you see.
  • Your doctor can help you find the right specialist.
  • You will not get access to all sessions at once. At first you will have 6 sessions.4
  • You will need to make another session with your doctor to review your plan and access more sessions.4

The Medicare rebate covers either all, or part, of the cost of the sessions you are entitled to. The sessions might be:2

  • Bulk billed, meaning the entire cost is covered.
  • The MHCP might cover the entire cost of the session.
  • There might be a ‘gap,’ meaning you will pay an amount for the session.
  • If you have Extras cover on your private health insurance, you may be able to claim benefits for consultations with a psychologist or clinical psychologist.

A note for members

You can’t use your private health insurance Extras cover at the same time you are using the Medicare rebate system for your 10 sessions, however, your insurance may be able to help when booking further sessions. You can also choose not to obtain or use a Mental Health Care Plan and use your private health insurance instead if you have services such as Psychology, Clinical Psychology, or Occupational Therapy.

Visit myHBF to find out more on your cover.

Specialists might charge a lower rate if you:

  • Have a student card.
  • Have a health care card.
  • Have a pension card.

How to claim the rebate with Medicare

The simplest way to claim is at the specialist on the day of your appointment. To do this you must:

In the appointment you might also be asked to:

If it is not possible to claim on the day you can make your claim with Medicare online. To do this:3

  • Make sure you get a tax invoice from the specialist for your appointment.
  • Create a MyGov account online here
  • Link your Medicare account to MyGov online, or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.

You can find the process of making a claim online here

How long does a mental health care plan last?

  • Mental Health Treatment Plans do not expire.
  • Referrals to specialists do not expire at the end of the year. 
  • If you do not use all your sessions during the calendar year, you can use them the next year.

When will you be able to see a psychologist?

You might not be able to see a specialist straight away. Psychologists are in demand and wait times can vary.4

Alternatives to a mental health care plan

Private health insurance

What if you need more sessions than you can get covered with a mental health care plan? Or what if you aren’t diagnosed with a mental health disorder?

In these cases, private health insurance can help cover you for psychology appointments.

It can also cover nutrition and dietetics, physiotherapy, and other services that can improve your health in general – which can have a big positive impact on mental health.

Support resources and apps

Apps may not be the answer, but there are some great options out there that provide confidential support when you need it most, often at no charge. You can also find some great resources on our Mental Health Hub.

If you need help right now, services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anywhere in Australia:

If you are experiencing an emergency, always call 000.

How can health insurance help?

At HBF, we know how important your mental health is.

HBF extras cover can give you benefits towards visits with a psychologist or clinical psychologist, up to your annual limit.

HBF hospital cover can pay benefits for hospital psychiatric services to treat mental health conditions. 

Find out more about HBF mental health cover and how it could help you and your family.

Explore HBF mental health cover

Find health cover that includes mental health services, for extra support when you need it most.

Find out more


  1. 1Health Direct- Mental Health Treatment Plan
  2. 2Headspace- Mental health care plan
  3. 3Services Australia- Mental Health and Medicare
  4. 4Australian Institute of Health and Welfare- Mental Health
  5. 5Insight- Mental health for young Australians: hurry up and wait


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.