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How Natural Therapies Are Affected By Changes To Private Health Insurance
Late last year, the Australian Government introduced changes to our health insurance system, which included changes to levels of cover available for some natural therapies.
So, you may be wondering about issues such as:
- How does this affect my use of natural therapies?
- Am I still covered for natural therapies with my health insurance?
- How do I know what’s covered and what isn’t?
Today, we’ll take a deep dive into the Australian Government’s changes to natural therapies, and how it may impact your use of natural therapies under your health insurance.
What are the reforms?
In October 2017, the Australian Government announced wide-ranging reforms to the health insurance system. The Health Minister Mr Greg Hunt, said that the changes were designed to make the system simpler and more affordable for Australians1.
How are the reforms affecting cover for natural therapies?
In a media release about the reforms, the Department of Health said that the government had consulted with the private health and medical industries to seek expert advice. Following this, it decided to stop insurers from offering benefits for a range of natural therapies, such as Bowen therapy, or Naturopathy1.
This means that some natural therapies that were previously covered under your private health insurance, may no longer be covered. This is a governmental decision, rather than a choice by your individual health insurer.
When will these reforms be introduced?
The reforms will take effect in April 2019. So, until that time you can continue to claim for these natural therapy services – depending on your policy.
What natural therapies will not be covered by private health insurance?
The Australian Government has stated that the following natural therapy services will be removed from the definition of private health insurance general treatment2, and customers will no longer receive a private health insurance rebate for these services3:
- Alexander technique: a health program focusing on awareness of posture and movement to promote wellbeing
- Aromatherapy: the use of plant materials and natural oils to promote wellbeing via massage, bath infusions, and diffusers
- Bowen therapy: a holistic treatment technique that works on the soft connective tissue of the body
- Buteyko: a breathing technique used in the treatment of asthma
- Feldenkrais: a wellness program that aims to improve posture, breathing and movement, by combining gentle touch with training
- Herbalism: a type of natural therapy that involves the use of medicinal plants or plant-derived substances to prevent and treat illness, often used by naturopaths
- Homeopathy: an alternative discipline underpinned by the principle of similitude (‘like cures like’); meaning substances that cause symptoms in a healthy person have the ability to treat an ill person with the same symptoms
- Iridology: the examination of the iris of the eye to determine information about a person’s systemic health
- Kinesiology: the study of body movement that identifies factors that block the body’s natural healing process, then treats them with attention to reflex points within the body
- Naturopathy: a broad-ranging natural medicine which emphasises the curative power of nature, and treats acute and chronic illnesses using nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathic medicine and Asian medicine
- Pilates: a physical exercise program that focuses on strengthening core muscles and improving posture through improvements in strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, range of motion, body definition, and muscle symmetry
- Reflexology: a system of applying pressure, usually to the feet, which practitioners believe stimulates energy and releases ‘blockages’ in specific areas that cause pain or illness
- Rolfing: a system of hands-on manipulation and movement education that claims to organise the body in gravity
- Shiatsu: a Japanese form of massage therapy that incorporates massage and acupressure
- Tai chi: a Chinese mind and body practice that combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle physical movements
- Yoga: a traditional Indian mind and body practice that involves a combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation, with the aim of restoring balance and improving wellbeing
Why were these natural therapies removed?
An extensive review was conducted by Professor Chris Baggoley, Chair of the Natural Therapies Review Advisory Committee in the Department of Health. The review found that there is no clear evidence demonstrating the efficacy of the listed natural therapies3.
Can your health insurer continue to provide cover for natural therapies?
Yes, insurance providers can continue to offer incentives as long as they meet the requirements of the Private Health Insurance (Complying Product) Rules. It will be at the discretion of each health provider to decide whether to offer this type of incentive.
Can you still use natural therapy services?
Yes of course, you are free to continue using any natural therapy you wish. However the full cost of the service will need to be covered by you, and you’ll no longer receive full or partial rebates from your private health insurance extras cover.
How do the changes benefit you?
While you may be disappointed that your favourite natural therapy will no longer covered from April 2019, the government’s aim is to ensure that private health insurance remains affordable for the 55% of the Australian population that’s covered by extras insurance.
The government aims to reduce the number of natural therapies insurers cover, thereby easing cost pressures to insurers, and helping to make premiums more affordable for more Australians2.
Should you review your extras cover?
It’s always a good idea to review your cover every 3-5 years, to ensure it’s still appropriate for your needs and budget.
Additionally, with the new reforms coming into place next year, it’s a good idea to consider if your level of extras cover suits your needs. To learn more about finding the right insurance policy for you or your family, feel free to compare policies online, or call us today on 13 19 20.
iSelect does not compare all policies or providers in the market. Not all policies are available at all times.