Published Papers - Abstract 454

Byles JE, Dolja-Gore X, Loxton D, Parkinson L & Stewart Williams J. Women’s uptake of Medicare Benefits Schedule mental health items for general practitioners, psychologists and other allied mental health professionals. Medical Journal of Australia, 2011; 194(4): 175-179

Objective: To quantify women’s uptake of Medicare Benefits Schedule mental health items, compare characteristics of women by mental health service use, and investigate the impact on Medicare costs.Design, setting and participants: Analysis of linked survey data and Medicare records (November 2006 – December 2007) of 14 911 consenting participants of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) across three birth cohorts (1921–1926 [“older cohort”], 1946–1951 [“mid-age cohort”], and 1973–1978 [“younger cohort”]). Main outcome measures: Uptake of mental health items; 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) Mental Health Index scores from ALSWH surveys; and patient (out-ofpocket) and benefit (government) costs from Medicare data.Results: A large proportion of women who reported mental health problems made no mental health claims (on the most recent survey, 88%, 90% and 99% of the younger, midage and older cohorts, respectively). Socioeconomically disadvantaged women were less likely to use the services. SF-36 Mental Health Index scores among women in the younger and mid-age cohorts were lowest for women who had accessed mental health items or self-reported a recent mental health condition. Mental health items are associated with higher costs to women and government.Conclusion: Although there has been rapid uptake of mental health items, uptake by women with mental health needs is low and there is potential socioeconomic inequity.

Open Access Article