Proposed Changes To Health Fund Rebates
You may have heard last week that private health cover is in the process of a shake-up, and it has been proposed that the coverage for many natural therapies be discontinued.
Unfortunately, this means that rebates for naturopathy and herbal medicine, as well as many other popular therapies such as Bowen therapy, kinesiology, tai chi and yoga will be discontinued if the proposal goes through.
Whilst I realise that this will come as a huge disappointment to many of you who do currently claim rebates through your health fund for appointments, it is important to keep a few things in mind:
- These changes are scheduled to come into effect from 1st April 2019 – in the meantime you should still be able to claim a rebate for these services, from your health fund.
- The decision has been based on a report prepared by the Department of Health, known as the ‘Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance’. It is a government decision, not a health fund decision, and is based around the government funding of the discount that most people paying for health fund membership receive.
- At this stage this is a proposal – it is not 100% certain to go through (although it seems likely). This means that we have time in which to act.
I feel that this move is not in the best interests of anyone who chooses to use natural medicine to manage their health, but it also has the potential to place additional burden on an already overloaded public health system. With 2 out of every 3 people choosing to use some form of natural medicine, the move also neglects the many long-reaching benefits of natural health – including the preventative aspects. People who see a natural healthcare practitioner are taking proactive steps to manage their own health and are choosing to follow a healthier lifestyle, which in turn reduces the need for mainstream health services. It also pays to keep in mind that it is becoming obvious our current disease-focused health system is failing when it comes to managing chronic conditions, an area where natural medicine truly has a lot to offer – in fact 42% of people who are using natural medicines are doing so to prevent or manage chronic, high priority health problems.
I spent the weekend reading through the Department of Health report (all 188 pages of it!) that this decision has been based on. You can access it here if you are interested in looking at it yourself. What you will most likely hear in the media is that the rebates will be ceased because there is ‘no evidence’ that the therapies work. What you won’t hear is that the report only looked at how valuable the ‘service’ was – it didn’t take into account any kind of research to do with the treatments (such as the herbs, nutrients or probiotics we use) or the impact that nutrition and lifestyle improvements can make to how you are feeling. The report only looked at whether patients received a benefit from the actual consult itself – and I’m sure that most of you come to me for a treatment, not the pleasure of my company! Please rest assured that there is plenty of scientific and clinical research backing up your herbal and nutritional medicines – and I am always happy to talk to you further about this.
Have Your Say:
If you are concerned about the removal of these rebates, then the best time to act is now – and there are things you can do that won’t take up a lot of time, but may make all the difference.
Your voice, as a consumer, will carry far more weight than my sole voice as a practitioner. I have written my own my own letter to our local member (you can read it here), as will my colleagues, and they are also encouraging their patients to do the same. I know that so many of you have been able to achieve results that are nothing short of outstanding, through your hard work and dedication to reclaiming your health (often when you have been told there was nothing that could be done). This needs to be brought to the attention of the people that make these decisions on our behalf.
Please write to your local MP regarding this, and tell them how you have benefited from using natural medicines, and why you feel the rebate needs to be continued. MP's listen to their electorate, and we are not powerless to have this decision changed. You don't have to be a great letter-writer, you just need to tell your story. I recommend that you post the letter rather than email, to ensure that your valuable input is received. Find out who your candidate is from the Australian Parliament website by clicking here.