This chapter considers Evaluation Question 2: To what extent has the Better Access initiative provided access to affordable care? Specifically, the chapter examines variations in services provided and costs associated with MBS–subsidised Better Access items for the total Australian population and for key population sub–groups. Analyses are conducted using data on Medicare-subsidised Better Access services received since the inception of the program on 1 November 2006.

To examine the question of affordability, the chapter presents descriptive profiles describing the Better Access services provided and associated costs (in terms of bulk–billing, fees charged, benefits paid, and average co–payments) for the total population and then for particular groups (based on age, gender, geographic location, and socio–economic disadvantage). In addition to a summary profile including all relevant MBS items, profiles were generated separately by item group (Consultant Psychiatry Items [291–299], GP Mental Health Treatment Items [2710–2713, 2702], Psychological Therapy Services Items [80000–80020], and Focussed Psychological Strategies [80100–80170]).

The analyses presented in this chapter address Evaluation Question 2 via the following series of research questions:

  1. What has been the rate of services provided and costs of Better Access services overall, and within item group and provider type?
  2. Do rates of co–payment for Better Access services vary across population subgroups?