We are in interesting times in natural healthcare.
Legislation was passed through parliament earlier this year to prevent Australians from claiming Naturopathy (among other modalities) as a health insurance rebate. This will come into effect in April 2019.
And yet, I am still encountering clients who are completely unaware of these recent changes. Clients who have hundreds of dollars worth of potential rebates to use and have not been advised by their health fund that they will soon be unable to use them!
The current changes to health insurance and natural therapies have proven to be very unpopular with multitudes of Australians, who frequently enjoy the benefits of natural treatments to augment their conventional treatments. Especially those with chronic health conditions and health issues not resolved through standard medical treatment.
So much so, that there has been in excess of 100,000 signatures to petition a rethink of this legislation. This has resulted in an investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, as to the lack of substance behind the research done to create this legislation by the NHRMC in 2015.
One final push to amend this legislation has come in the form of a written request to the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to use his discretionary power to allow health funds to continue to provide rebates for natural therapies, irrespective of the government no longer providing funding for these rebates.
The ‘Your Health Your Choice’ campaign has been instrumental in providing a platform for consumers and practitioners, to impress upon the government the importance of access to natural healthcare for all Australians.
Thousands of letters have been sent to local federal MP’s and the federal Health Minister, outlining the disastrous consequences of this legislative change on local businesses, industry research and health care funding.
At present, the popularity of natural therapies in health funds has resulted in a boon for health insurers. When the public are proactive about improving their health and wellbeing, they are less likely to need expensive medical treatments. This reduces the impact of spiraling health care costs and strain on the public health system and Medicare funding.
However, without natural healthcare rebates, there is likely to be a significant decline in the continued uptake of private health insurance. Especially given the increasing cost of taking out private health cover.
As a democratic nation we believe in the importance of choice. And if we want our citizens to be healthy and happy, then we need to make the most of every opportunity to promote the health and wellness among all Australians.