Not all natural therapies deserve the woo-woo reputation they get. Yes, they’re a bit different from conventional medical treatments, but they could be used as an addition to traditional medicine.1 Generally speaking, they can help provide holistic and non-invasive treatments for patients. Some natural therapies can sometimes also be referred to as alternative or complementary therapies.
Just keep in mind that not all natural therapies can be covered under your Extras. While some have proven benefits, others don’t have a lot of evidence backing them up.2 But don’t worry—we’ll give you a breakdown of which is which in this article!
Typically, you’ll only be able to claim benefits for natural therapies under Extras Cover. Extras cover helps you pay for the kind of treatments and medical services you get outside of hospital like dental treatments, prescription glasses and - you guessed it - some natural therapies.
If covered by your policy, and you’ve served any relevant waiting periods, you’ll be able to make a claim for these treatments and get a certain amount back. This can work in one or two ways:
A limit on how much you can claim for each type of treatment may also apply and the limit usually resets every year. Plus, not every Extras policy will cover you for the same things. Each insurer and policy is different: one might cover you for myotherapy, another might not.
For this reason, it’s always best to read the policy document that the insurer provides. This will give you a good overview of the coverage you’re getting, and it can usually be found on the insurer’s website.
Where you get treated for natural therapy is also pretty vital! Most insurers will only pay benefits if you visit a recognised provider. You’ll always want to check with your insurer beforehand to make sure they recognise your chosen provider. It might just save you from having to pay 100% of the bill!
Natural therapies that have a body of evidence behind them may get included in some Extras policies. For instance, medical reviews have found that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for jaw pain,5 Likewise, remedial massage and myotherapy may prove very useful for chronic, lower back pain.6
Insurers may also offer cover for Chinese medicine, chiropractic treatment, osteopathy, and other medical services.7 As you can see, there is a pretty wide range of complementary and alternative medicine that Extras Cover can include—though there are also certain things insurers can’t cover.
This list of natural therapies that can’t be covered by Private Health Insurance is pretty clear-cut. Back on 1 April 2019, the Australian Government ruled that insurers cannot offer cover for the following treatments:8
The decision to no longer offer government rebates for these services was based off a review in 2015 on how effective they actually were.9 Since that review, more evidence of their effectiveness was found, and another review in 2019/2020 confirmed there wasn’t enough evidence that these treatments were medically effective. As a result, insurers cannot provide cover for these services anymore.10
The decision to cut government rebates for so many natural therapies attracted its fair share of criticism.11 Since the original decision, new evidence has also come to light about the effectiveness of these treatments.
In response to this, the Australian Government organised a new review that will look at the new evidence and advise whether any of these excluded treatments should get covered again.12 Right now, the evidence is still being assessed and a report should be sent to the government in early 2024.13
So, what does this mean in plain English? Basically, we’re going to have to wait until at least 2024 to find out whether Health Insurance will cover those excluded treatments like naturopathy and yoga.
This really depends on the policy. There will always be differences in what each insurer charges, what treatments they cover, the benefits they provide and the limits they apply—all of which can have an effect on the price.
However, a policy that covers more treatments will generally be more expensive. Not surprisingly, a basic Extras policy14 that only covers things like general dental services will usually cost less than an Extras policy that covers a bunch of different natural therapies.15
Still, there’s a silver lining. Some insurers offer flexible policies that let you select the medical services you want instead of having to pay for things you don’t need.16 This is a great way to take control of your cover and make sure it works for you.
Many insurers will put a ‘waiting period’ on certain medical treatments when you take out Health Insurance. During these periods, you won’t be eligible to make any claims for these treatments.17
Each insurer can set their own waiting periods for different services, and they can vary wildly: from two months to three years.18 It’s not all doom and gloom though! There’s no shortage of policies which apply the shorter, two-month waiting period when it comes to natural therapies.19 And sometimes health funds will waive the waiting periods for natural therapies altogether for new customers, another reason to shop around! Just make sure you read the policy brochure beforehand so that you know what you’re getting.
Whether you’re looking for Extras Cover that offers benefits for natural therapies or Health Insurance for Hospital Cover, iSelect can make searching for a policy a lot easier. So compare with us online if you’re after Health Insurance and we’ll help you choose between a range of policies from a bunch of different providers*. Give it a try today and see if we can help you find a great deal!
1 Queensland Government - Complementary Therapies
2 Australian Government | Department of Health - Private health insurance reforms: Changing coverage for some natural therapies (Page 1)
3 AHM – Lifestyle Extras (Page 4)
4 Bupa - Freedom 50 Extras | Policy Information (Page 3)
5 Victoria State Department | Department of Health - Better Health Channel | Acupuncture
6 Victoria State Department | Department of Health - Better Health Channel | Massage
7 Bupa - Top Extras Boost
8 Australian Government | Department of Health and Aged Care - Natural Therapies Review 2019–20
9 The Sydney Morning Herald - Backlash to government's natural therapies rebate ban spurs new review
10 HCF - Which natural therapies can I claim for?
11 The Sydney Morning Herald - Backlash to government's natural therapies rebate ban spurs new review
12 Australian Government | Department of Health and Aged Care - Natural Therapies Review 2019–20
13 Natural Therapies Review Expert Advisory Panel - Meeting Outcomes, 2 August 2023
14 Bupa - Extras Saver
15 Bupa - Top Extras Boost
16 Bupa - FLEXtras 4 Standard 50
17 PrivateHealth.gov.au - Waiting periods
18 Commonwealth Ombudsman | Private Health Insurance Ombudsman - Waiting periods for private health insurance (Page 4)
19 HCF - Top Extras Product Summary (Page 2)