In March this year, the federal government made a range of telehealth medical services temporarily available through Medicare. After many years of campaigning for telehealth services for people living with ME/CFS and other chronic illnesses, Emerge Australia and the ME/CFS community have warmly welcomed this change. The current arrangements were originally intended to expire in September 2020. Given the positive impact of telehealth and effective campaigning, telehealth will now be available via Medicare until March 2021, at which stage it will be reviewed.
Our telehealth nurse service, which we have been delivering for over twelve months in partnership with the Centre for Community Driven Research (CCDR), has made a huge difference to our community and we would love to see this expanded permanently to other medical services.
Emerge Australia stands with many other health and disability organisations around Australia in thanking the government for making telehealth services available and asking for them to be made permanent.
2020 Campaign Update
In July we launched a letter-writing campaign to ask the federal government to make telehealth available through Medicare on a permanent basis. The ME/CFS community have rallied around this campaign, contacting more than 50 federal MPs across all Australian states and territories.
We have written to the 50+ federal MPs to follow up on your letters and to provide further information about the importance of telehealth. We have also written to the Health Minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP, the Shadow Health Minister, the Hon Chris Bowen MP, and other stakeholders including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on behalf of the ME/CFS community.
We are pleased that telehealth services will now be available via Medicare until March 2021 and will continue to advocate for:
- telehealth to be made permanently available for people living with ME/CFS after March 2021
- people who are housebound or bedbound to be exempt from the new requirement of attending a face-to-face appointment with a GP in the previous 12 months in order to access telehealth
If you have been impacted by this new requirement, we would love to hear from you.
Thank you to everyone who has invested time and energy in this campaign so far – we couldn’t do it without you.
Join the Campaign
It’s not too late to join with us to thank the government for introducing telehealth services and ask for these to be made permanently available for people living with ME/CFS and other chronic conditions. We are also calling on the government to exempt people who are housebound or bedbound as a result of ME/CFS or other chronic illnesses from the new requirement of attending a face-to-face GP appointment in the previous twelve months in order to access telehealth.
Federal MPs love hearing from their constituents and writing to them can make a big difference. Follow these steps to join our letter-writing campaign:
- Find your local federal MP and their contact details by searching for your postcode at: aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members
- Write a letter to your federal MP explaining your experience of telehealth and why you want it to be permanent. You can use our draft letter (click here) or write your own.
- Let Emerge Australia know that you have contacted your MP by CLICKING HERE. We’ll keep track of how many politicians have been contacted and report back.
Please be aware that not all MPs will write back to you. However every single letter counts, as they are all read and considered by electorate offices. Please don’t be put off if you have written before and not seen or heard visible results.
Every letter that someone has the capacity to write and send is valuable for the whole community.
Survey into experiences of telehealth services
In June, we used a survey to ask the ME/CFS community to share their experiences of telehealth (excluding our nurse service) since March 2020. 419 Australians living with ME/CFS and their carers shared their experiences with us. We have heard directly from you that telehealth has significantly improved your access to vital health services.
Key findings of our survey were:
- 82 per cent of respondents experienced improved access to services because of telehealth
- 90 per cent of respondents had a positive experience with telehealth since March 2020
- After COVID-19 has passed, 82 per cent of people with ME/CFS have a preference for accessing services using a mix of telehealth with occasional face-to-face appointments, and 9 per cent would prefer to use telehealth all of the time