Increases in use of Medicare Benefits Schedule mental health items among women who gave birth in New South Wales, 2009–2015
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Objective: To report rates of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) mental health item use among a sample of women who gave birth in NSW (2009-2015) and examine if the SAFE START policy increased use of these items among perinatal women. Methods: Data was drawn from women participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health 1973-1978 cohort, linked to data from the NSW Perinatal Data Collection and MBS. Results: Use of Medicare-subsidised mental health items increased 2.7-fold among perinatal women (n=1,453) between 2009 and 2015 (4.1% versus 11.0% respectively), compared to a 1.3-fold increase among non-perinatal women (n=1,800, 6.3% versus 8.4% respectively). However, the increased use of MBS mental health items among perinatal women was not observed to be impacted by the SAFE START policy, after accounting for time trends. Conclusion: There was a substantial increase in the use of MBS mental health items among women in NSW between 2009 and 2015, with a more pronounced increase among women who had given birth compared to those who had not. Implications for public health: This study provides important information about changes in mental health service use during a time of significant investment in perinatal mental health, and demonstrates the value of longitudinal survey data linked with administrative health data to evaluate the impact of health policy.
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University of Newcastle Australia