A new psychological treatment scheme by Australia's Medicare may have affluent urbanites dipping their fingers in it, in the process shoving the poor and needy out of the way.
Accordingly, more than $200 million will be spent in the first year of the treatment plan, which incidentally has been swamped by patients.
Although the federal government budgeted $538 million in funding over five years for the additional Medicare costs, experts prophesy that they will have to double this figure to meet demand. According to them, the Medicare-funded scheme is being abused by affluent urbanites rather than servicing the vulnerable, who need assistance the most. Low socioeconomic groups and rural regions are missing out, they say.
Says David Crosbie, the CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia, in a criticism of the government's failure to monitor use of the program: "What you are in danger of creating is a system where those who already have good access to mental health services get better access and others go without.
"The Government is certainly putting a lot of money into these services but we cannot measure the outcomes, we cannot even get a rural-metropolitan breakdown - it amazes me that they will not release the data."
Yet, a government spokesman said that the scheme was not a financial blowout and that such popularity proved the policy was a success.
The Medicare scheme was introduced partly in response to youth suicide rates, with Prime Minister John Howard pointing out 500,000 young people and teenagers suffer a mental illness.