From 1st April 2019 sixteen natural therapy modalities are no longer covered by private health insurance in Australia.
The therapies affected by this change include;
- Alexander technique
- Bowen therapy
- Western Herbal Medicine
- Tai chi
As stated on the Department of Health website, rules have been executed to exclude these natural therapies from the definition of general treatment under section 121-10 of the Private Health Insurance Act 2007. This means that insurers will not be able to offer benefits for these therapies as part of a complying health insurance policy. According to The Department of Health this will "will remove costs from the system and contribute to reducing private health insurance premium growth." Despite this, many consumers have found that April 1st not only brought about less cover and reduced preventative health care cover, but provided very little relief from the annual premium increase.
Why is this happening?
The health insurance reforms came about following a review chaired by the former Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer and undertaken by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
The NHMRC was tasked with reviewing scientific literature examining the effectiveness and, where available, the safety and cost-effectiveness of seventeen natural therapies, undertaken for the specific purpose of informing the Australian Government’s Natural Therapies Review. From this review process, the NHMRC concluded that there was no clear evidence demonstrating the efficacy of the excluded natural therapies which, in turn, has led to cover for these therapies being scrapped in the health insurance reforms - as a cost saving exercise.
What happens now?
Understandibly the wider industry has been left reeling from this whole process and a number of campaigns are taking place concurrently to take this further. These include Australian Traditional Medicine Society's How Dare They campaign launched in July 2017 and Your Health Your Choice by the Australian Homeopathic Association. Other organisations have also banded together and collaborated on submissions imploring Greg Hunt to reconsider these reforms.