Natural therapies removal to be reviewed

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The Federal Government will review the removal of some natural therapies from the private health insurance rebate that it introduced among its new reforms this month.

Sixteen such treatments – including homeopathy, reflexology, pilates, yoga and aromatherapy – have not been covered by insurers since Monday 1 April 2019.

However, Health Minister Greg Hunt has now commissioned a review of this policy, including a five-year update to the Liberal Party’s 2014-15 review of natural therapies.

“The Government has listened to the views of the sector that there is additional evidence for certain natural therapies since 2014-15 and this updated review will enable formal consideration of this,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.

He said the Liberals will spend up to $2 million on the review, which starts in mid-2019. The final report is due in 2020.

It will be led by Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, with an advisory panel including experts in natural therapies, private health insurance, medicine and allied health, plus consumer representatives. The National Health and Medical Research Council will also be involved.

“The CMO’s review will assess additional available evidence for natural therapies, undertake public consultation and provide advice to Government on whether certain natural therapies should be eligible for subsidy through the private health insurance rebate,” Mr Hunt said.

The government’s decision to review this part of its reforms – which comes ahead of the federal election in May – has been backed by campaign group Your Health Your Choice.

“Removal of natural therapy rebates pushes costs to consumers and makes private health insurance less worthwhile,” spokesperson Petrina Reichman said.

Mr Hunt said the health insurance reforms have delivered the lowest annual premium change in 18 years, at 3.25 per cent.

Private health insurers now classify private hospital products into four tiers – Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic – while offering premium discounts for people aged 18 to 29, higher excesses for lower premiums, and travel and accommodation benefits for those who must travel long distances for hospital treatment.

Information on the reforms.

Read more: ‘Huge gap’ in consumer view of private and public hospitals

Read more: States’ ‘cash grab’ for private health insurance criticised

Read more: Reimagining healthcare – what does the future hold?

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