The Australian Government is set to review the rebate on private health insurance premiums for natural therapies undertaken by private health insurance policy holders. The initial plan was drawn up way back in July 2012, with extended delays pushing back the implementation of the review until 1 April this year.
The delay will allow the Department of Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to better understand the evidence and consult with more experts in the natural therapies industry.
The review is likely to wipe out the rebate on anything the government considers a treatment that lacks appropriate or relevant scientific evidence.
Natural therapies in review
Natural therapies are growing in popularity across Australia, with a variety of different services on offer. The government asked private health insurers to provide information as to which treatments they were covering between December 2012 and January 2013.
Subsequently, there are several alternative treatments which will be reviewed and could be effected by changes to the rebate. Some of the more specific and nuanced remedies are as follows:
- The Alexander Technique: This treatment is used to retrain the body to break long-term bad habits. In healthcare, it is predominantly used to correct posture and ultimately soothe back pain.
- Aromatherapy: The use of aromas and essential oils for healing purposes. Often used in the pursuit for general wellbeing, but it can also supposedly combat a number of ailments.
- Ayurveda: The natural therapy used in Hinduism. Used to promote all round good health through a mixture of a good diet and breathing exercises similar to those used in yoga.
- Bowen therapy: A hands-on treatment which aims to relieve pain through the acute use of pressure.
- Buteyko: An alternative physical therapy that uses specific and particular breathing techniques.
- Feldenkrais Method: A technique which trains the body to move efficiently, this is supposed to lead to better posture and relief of joint pain.
- Iridology: This involves examining the iris to diagnose and assess ailments.
This is by no means an extensive list of all of the natural therapies that the government is set to review. Those above are treatments which often come in for the most criticism when it comes to having little scientific or tangible evidence to prove their effectiveness.
However, other therapies such as a whole host of massage techniques – which have been credited with treating and relieving muscular pain in the past – will also be put under scrutiny when proceedings commence in April.
The likely outcome
The Department of Health received 46 submissions from a number of organisations and key players in the wider healthcare industry in Australia. Those stakeholders were tasked with explaining the clinical efficiency, cost effectiveness and the quality of the range of natural therapies that are currently accounted for by the rebate.
The government will go through this evidence and provide a list of treatments that will remain unaffected by any changes. Those that don't make the cut will still be made available across Australia, but they will become fully paid services with no consideration under the umbrella of the private health insurance rebate.
There may be some private health funds which will continue to offer coverage against any natural therapies that are no longer able to attract the rebate after 1 April. If you are looking for a policy which encompasses such treatments, talking the next steps through with the experts is key.
Finding the right private health insurance doesn't have to be a drawn out process. Consider calling HICA on 1300 44 22 01 for impartial advice which will help you better understand what the variety of different health funds and policies can offer.