Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a range of some common questions and brief responses which may apply to your specific query:
Are speech pathologists all trained the same?
Speech pathologists complete a degree at university which encompasses all aspects of communication including speech, writing, reading, signs, symbols and gestures. Speech pathologists also work with people who have difficulties swallowing food and drink. They are experts in the areas of communication and swallowing difficulties. Please refer to our Fact Sheets for more information on specific clinical areas.
There are a number of university courses throughout Australia which offer entry level training for speech pathologists. Courses may be an undergraduate (bachelor) or masters level entry degree. These qualifications for speech pathologists are equivalent in Australia.
Speech Pathology Australia is the peak professional body that represents speech pathologists in Australia and has an important role in accrediting university programs that train speech pathologists.
Is speech pathology and speech therapy the same thing?
Speech pathologists or speech-language pathologists were formerly known as speech therapists. These titles are taken as meaning the same thing and those with these qualifications are all university or tertiary institution trained. They are different from speech and drama teachers.
What will a speech pathologist charge?
Currently, Speech Pathology Australia is unable to publish set fees for speech pathology services as this practice contravenes the Australian Competition and Consumer and Commission (ACCC) guidelines.
Fees are determined by individual practices and are based on a range of variables: ie geographic location, experience, business overheads etc.
A fee is generally assigned to one specific session or service. Some speech pathology practices however may set fees that may be a packaged fee, for example a Full Assessment, which may include a number of sessions and the Assessment report. Others may have separate fees for each part of their service.
Always ask your speech pathologist for details of their fees and charges, as well as terms of payment.
Can I claim on Medicare for speech pathology?
Yes, speech pathology services can be rebated under specific Medicare Allied Health Initiatives, however there are criteria that clients need to meet.
Chronic Disease Management items (known as the Enhanced Primary Care [EPC] plan)
Patients with chronic conditions or complex care needs, who are managed by their General Practitioner (GP) under an EPC plan may qualify for Medicare rebates. Chronic conditions are defined as conditions which have been, or are likely to be, present for six months or more. Complex care needs are those where the GP considers the patient would benefit from care provided by two or more health professionals as well as themselves. In the case of complex and chronic communication and swallowing difficulties, it is likely that specialists such as paediatricians, neurologists, psychologists, occupational therapists and audiologists may also be involved in the client’s management in addition to the GP and speech pathologist.
Please note that patients admitted to a hospital or day hospital facility do not qualify for Medicare rebates. Speech pathologists must be registered with Medicare Australia to accept patient referrals under this scheme.
The Medicare - Allied Health Services initiative commenced on 1st July 2004 and allows patients under an Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) plan to gain access to Medicare rebates, for complex and chronic conditions, for up to 5 visits per year to an allied health provider. That’s a total of 5 visits per patient, not 5 visits per provider, and may be spread across different allied health services – for more information.
The Helping Children with Autism Package is an initiative to assist families with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The initiative has two funding components:
Medicare rebates for specialist and allied health services are now available to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or a condition which comes under the term Pervasive Developmental Disorder [PDD])
Up to four Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) services in total will be available for eligible allied health professionals, including speech pathologists, to collaborate with the referring practitioner in the diagnosis of a child (aged under 13 years) and/or the development of a child’s PDD treatment and management plan.
A further twenty Medicare rebate services in total will also be available for eligible allied health professionals, including speech pathologists, to provide treatment to a child (aged under 15 years and who was under 13 years at the time of receiving their diagnosis from the specialist and the PDD treatment and management plan) for their particular condition, consistent with the treatment and management plan prepared by the referring practitioner.
Early Intervention Multidisciplinary Programs funding
The Helping Children with Autism package may also provide additional funding to ensure that children aged 0 to 6 years diagnosed with ASD have greater access to a range of early intervention services, including packages of individual assistance.
Specifically the program provides:
up to $12,000 ($6,000 per year for two years) in individual assistance for children, diagnosed with an ASD, and aged six years and under when eligibility is approved, and under 7 years of age when receiving service, to support the provision of structured and intensive early intervention services such as one-on-one intensive activities, behavioural therapies and tailored group and individual programs;
up to 40 Autism Advisors to assist families and carers of children diagnosed with an ASD by providing specific information and referrals to the most appropriate early intervention services; and
an additional $2000 for families in rural and remote areas to assist their child in benefits from early intervention. This will provide these families with options for accessing early intervention services, such as accommodation and travel to and from support, as well as training, respite and resources such as books and computers to access online information
PlayConnect Playgroups – which targets children aged 0-6years with ASD or ASD like symptoms
Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres – six centres are being established to provide early learning and specific support for children with ASD
Early Days Family Workshops – aimed at providing support and resources for parents and carers of children with ASD.
Further information can be obtained from the Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) who administers the early intervention component of the “Helping Children with Autism” package – for more information
How much can speech pathologists charge under a Medicare scheme?
The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) scheduled fee is set by Medicare for different item numbers. The Medicare rebate for the Chronic Disease Management Items is different from that under the Helping Children with Autism Items.
The Medicare rebate often will not equal the usual fee for speech pathology services. Where the speech pathologist’s charge is above the scheduled fee they cannot bulk bill. The patient will need to take the fully paid account / receipt to Medicare to claim back the rebate amount and cover any gap amount themselves. The rebate is only payable for face-to-face consultations. There is no amount payable for care planning or paperwork prepared by the speech pathologist. It is important to note that once a claim is made to Medicare there is no private health insurance rebate available to the patient for that particular consultation.
Therefore it is necessary for the patient to consider if they are financially better off continuing to claim on any private health insurance they may have instead of Medicare, depending on the out of pocket amount. It is also important to note that any gap amount payable qualifies towards the patient’s Medicare Safety Net.
If a patient has claimed their full entitlement from Medicare for speech pathology services they may then revert to claiming under their private health insurance, providing they have not exceeded the annual limit under their particular ancillary plan.
My son was assessed at the local school by a speech pathologist – should we be given a report on what was found?
Speech pathologists should document information relating to any assessment performed. This information may be provided to you, and where your consent is provided, this information may be forwarded to other health and educational service providers.
Do I need a referral from the doctor before seeing the speech pathologist?
Generally, a referral to a speech pathologist is not necessary. A self referral is adequate. However, some public health services (ie hospitals) do require a referral from a GP or other specialist.
To access a Medicare rebate, a referral from the GP or relevant medical specialist will be necessary. A specific GP referral will also be necessary to access speech pathology services under the Department of Veterans Affairs and Motor Accident and Workcover Authority programs.
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