The federal government stopped health funds covering most natural therapies from 1st April 2019. (Acupuncture and remedial massage are still covered.) However, after a backlash from supporters of natural therapies, the government has now commissioned a review of the evidence for naturopathy and a number of other natural therapies, to see if they should again be covered by the funds. The government had made it’s original decision based on a 2014-15 review of natural therapies, which was clearly out of date.
Here is the press release from the Minister for Health announcing the review. Government Review of Natural Therapies for Health Funds
Also, here is a video by Dr Kerryn Phelps, a high-profile GP, saying why the government preventing health funds covering many natural therapies was a bad idea. On her Facebook page, she says “As a GP and conjoint professor at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine, I will continue to fight the Morrison Government’s decision to remove the complementary therapies yoga, pilates, tai chi, Western herbal medicine and naturopathy from receiving private health insurance rebates.
Practitioners want certainty and patients want choice. Internationally, health systems are adopting complementary therapies rather than shunning them.
Thousands of practitioners and patients have gotten in touch with me due to sheer frustration at the Government’s decision that comes into effect today. The medical evidence for complementary therapies exists and they can be part of an effective medical treatment program for patients.
A total of 16 natural therapies have been banned from receiving private health rebates from April 1 because the Morrison Government thinks they lack scientific evidence. The problem is that the evidence relied upon to make this decision was out of date, with no studies included that were more recent than 2014.
Around 80 per cent of Australians use natural medicines and treatments. The move was designed to push down private health premiums, but experts admit it will have a minimal impact.
I spoke to Sky News today and said the following: “I think that the net was cast far too wide for these complementary therapies. I have asked the Health Minister to reconsider the list of prohibited therapies and particularly to remove from that list yoga, tai chi, Western herbal medicine, naturopathy and pilates so that people can continue to get value from their private health insurance for these modalities.
“I think it is very important that both sides of Government understand the importance of integrated therapies for individual choice. We have people who are integrating a variety of complementary therapies which do have support, with evidence, for their healthcare, and particularly for their preventative healthcare and for recovery and rehabilitation.
“To not be able to get the value out of your private health insurance by being able to use these therapies of choice is a very backwards step. It is certainly out of step with what is happening internationally. One example is that for low back pain in the NHS in the UK, first line therapies are tai chi and yoga, yet these are two of the therapies that are being removed from the list of subsidies for private health insurance – I think that this needs a rethink.”
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