Australians on the verge of developing a mental health disorder should be allowed to receive up to 10 government-subsidised sessions with a psychologist, according to a Medicare review.
At the moment, only Australians who have already been diagnosed with a disorder are permitted to receive cheaper psychology sessions through Medicare.
But the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review's mental health reference group has recommended extending the subsidised sessions to those at risk of becoming mentally unwell, as a preventative measure.
That would include people who have previously experienced a mental health disorder and are at risk of developing another one.
"Enabling access to care for the at-risk population without requiring a formal diagnosis could reduce stigma around mental health disorders, increasing the potential for healing without progression into full mental illness," the group states in a report, published this week.
The government would also save money by giving people access to subsidised treatment earlier, according to the reference group, made up of 21 psychologists and other mental health professionals.
"Research conducted at the London School of Economics noted the substantial savings from investing in early intervention for young people in the United Kingdom, with 'perhaps PS15 ($A27) in costs avoided for every PS1 invested'."
The group has also recommended increasing the number of Medicare-funded sessions with a psychologist Australians can be referred to in a single doctor's visit, from six to 10.
Currently, doctors can sign an individual up for a "mental health plan", which allows up to six Medicare-subsidised sessions with a psychologist.
After those appointments are complete, the individual can return to their doctor to have their plan reviewed and receive an extra four sessions.
The group of experts says that system has a few pitfalls, including interrupting the "therapeutic flow of a course of treatment" if people have to wait several weeks to see their doctor to extend their plan.
"The interruption to the course of treatment can be even more pronounced in rural areas, where access to the GP may be more infrequent," the report states.
The mental health reference group is one of several involved in the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review, which have released their reports for public consultation.
The consultation period will run until mid-May, with members of the public able to make written submissions on recommendations and stakeholders invited to attend forums to have their say.
The overarching review is looking at how Medicare-funded services can better be aligned with the latest clinical evidence and on improving health outcomes for patients.
There are currently more than 5700 items listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, including various consultations, tests and operations.Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]