Important Update on Private Health Fund Rebates for Natural Therapies - Awaken Your Health
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Important Update on Private Health Fund Rebates for Natural Therapies

Changes to legislation taken effect 1st April 2019 cut a range of natural therapies from private health cover rebates, including Naturopathy.

As a result of this implemented legislation change, this is the first time in my fifteen-year consulting career that I have not been able to offer a rebate on my Naturopathic consultation services to clients!

This has been understandably distressing to some, and to be fair, seems a little limiting from every angle, especially considering the prolific prevalence of many natural therapies and complementary medicine in Australia.

According to research published 2018  over 60% of the Australian Population already use complementary medicines, and over 30% of the Australian adult population consult with a complementary medicine practitioner each year, such as a Naturopath, Massage therapist, Yoga therapy, Tai chi, or Western herbal medicine practitioner. The authors quote that “Prevalence of CM use in Australia has remained consistently high, demonstrating that CM is an established part of contemporary health management practices within the general population”.

Clearly ill-informed, the change to the legislation was based on a paper written by opponents of Natural Therapies, which was inadequate and incorrectly quoted that there was “no evidence for efficacy” of “non-conventional” therapies such as Yoga, Tai chi, Western herbal medicine, and Naturopathy. This opinion was based on evidence inadequately reviewed, up to 2015.

What the researchers were not aware of, is that Naturopathic medicine is indeed effective in preventing and managing a range of chronic conditions, and a huge number of well-respected papers have been published since 2015.

Just to be clear, The World Naturopathic Federation has identified seven core modalities of naturopathic medicine:

  • clinical nutrition and diet modification/counselling;
  • applied nutrition (use of dietary supplements, traditional medicines, and natural health care products);
  • herbal medicine;
  • lifestyle counselling;
  • hydrotherapy;
  • homeopathy, including complex homeopathy; and
  • physical modalities (based on the treatment modalities taught and allowed in each jurisdiction, including yoga, naturopathic manipulation, and muscle release techniques).

The top four modalities are the very foundation of my clinical practice, and I don’t believe that the outstanding clinical improvements I see day-in and day-out in private clinical practice are a coincidence… the opposite in fact… when someone’s body is supported to restore balance, dis-ease often resolves. I am very lucky to do what I do.

Ultimately, it’s logical. What we choose to eat, our exercise and lifestyle habits (such as stress-management practices, sleep hygiene, and regular exposure to environmental chemicals) all have enormous cumulative impacts on our expression of health and disease.

Are we really anything more than the sum of our daily habits?

To highlight this, an open-access Review published 2019, titled: The State of the Evidence for Whole-System, Multi-Modality Naturopathic Medicine: A Systematic Scoping Review, outlined that Naturopathic medicine was found to be beneficial for a wide range of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disorders, musculoskeletal pain, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, hepatitis C, menopausal symptoms, bipolar disorder, asthma and in increasing cancer survival time.

The researchers identified 33 published studies involving 9,859 participants. The studies came from research conducted across the globe and included 11 USA; 4 Canada; 6 Germany; 7 India; 3 Australia; 1 UK; and 1 Japan (the paper from Japan covered a range of mainly chronic clinical conditions). The main author of this Systematic Scoping Review, Professor Stephen Myers, says “This study coupled with the large body of literature which demonstrates the effectiveness of individual naturopathic tools of trade (nutritional and herbal supplements and lifestyle interventions) there can no longer be any doubt that naturopathic medicine is an effective approach to chronic disease.”

So, needless to say, my stance is that choosing modalities that educate and empower clients to make informed and constructive choices, preventing disease and helping to delay progression of pre-existing conditions, therefore minimising the need for pharmaceutical intervention, and reducing incidence of potentially more harmful interventions such as surgery, contemporary and complementary medicine choices such as clinical nutrition and applied nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and evidence-informed use of Western herbal is GOOD MEDICINE.

Regardless of your own position, it’s unanimous that we should all have the CHOICE when it comes to our own health.

As always in Naturopathic & Nutritional Medicine – it is essential to move fast and to be nimble and adaptable, to keep up with the changes.

As soon as 7th April, less than a week after the legislation was implemented, and after much lobbying from leaders in our industry / health practitioners / and patients alike (plus the groundswell of support from the public who have had good experiences with Natural therapies!), the Federal government announced their decision to review the removal of certain natural therapies from private health insurance.

You can view the media Release, here.

This is a positive step forward for Natural medicine and the review will begin mid this year and will include a five-year update to its 2014-2015 review of Natural Therapies.

So, for now, it’s a matter of “watch this space”. It’s likely that the review WILL re-instate rebates to Natural therapies such as Naturopathy and Western Herbal medicine, but in the meantime, I will continue to receipt with all of my provider numbers and it’s really up to your own unique private health funds to make the decision as to whether you are eligible to receive a rebate on your consultation fee.

I hope this summary has cleared up some of the confusion, and I very much look forward to seeing you in the clinic soon.

Tabitha x

Tabitha McIntosh