Natural Therapies Private Health Funds Rebate Review & Its Impact On Ayurveda
Recent decision of Federal Government to cut the rebate on various natural therapies including yoga from 1April 2019, is based on the report submitted by Natural Therapies Review Advisory Committee (NTRAC) that was chaired by Prof. Chris Baggoley (Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health) with members from different naturotherpy organisations and NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council). This announcement was made by Health Minister Greg Hunt with the aim to protect the private health system from collapse and to curb premium inflation costs, in near future.
NTRAC evidence based review was based on the safety, quality, clinical efficacy and cost effectiveness of these therapies to decide if the government should pay rebate on insurance products that cover natural therapies.
The natural therapies included were ayurveda and others as below: a) Alexander Technique
c) Bowen therapy
Its important to note that at present “there has been no formal statement from the Australian Health Funds on whether they have plans to remove rebates on private health insurance covers for these natural therapies” As NHMRC was unable to finalise the evidence review for Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of medicine due to its broad spectrum and involvement of extensive therapies. According the report “Evidence review for Ayurveda is more complex than other therapies in scope” The other reason was not getting enough information and advice from Indian Ministry and Indian Council of Medical Research to identify the evidence base for Ayurveda. According to Professor Ken Harvey, consumer representatives on this review the report clearly indicates that evidence base for most of these therapies was not conclusive and so as the clinical effectiveness of these therapies. To a surprise he also mentioned that disease prevention was not the focus of this review. This announcement no doubt has caused, outrage in natural health industry. Some argue that World Health Organization (WHO) expect 80% of world’s population will move towards Ayurvedic medicine and other complimentary medicinal products as a primary source of healthcare. Australian traditional medicie society (ATMS) states that every Australian should have choice of health services. A well planned wellness strategies such as diet and lifestyle changes, yoga and natural therapies can eventually save healthcare system on hospital and medical costs at later stages. Natural health practitioners believe that preventive therapies actually save on the medical costs and decrease burden on the medical system. The following table shows all the statements in a manner easy to understand the pros and cons of this change.
|Statement in Favor of Change||Statements Against Change|
||1)Benefits paid for the natural therapies in scope comprise less than 1% of total benefits paid by health funds ($4.9 billion)|
|2) People will have more access to pacemakers and hip and knee implants with less premium costs.||2) World Health Organization (WHO) expect 80% of world’s population will move towards Ayurvedic medicine and other complimentary medicinal products as a primary source of healthcare|
|3) Young population will have more access to insurance products||3) Preventive therapies actually save on the medical costs and decrease burden on the medical system.|
|4) No clear evidence base available for effectiveness and efficacy||4) a)Government funding for research goes to conventional medicine research in areas such as cancer, heart, stroke, MS etc., but not traditional medicines. b) There is plenty of research out there proving the efficacy of traditional therapies however it is in the interests of big pharma companies to say these therapies because they want people to buy their drugs (Natural therapy supporters)|
|5) We believe that insurers should remain able to cover non-evidence-based ‘natural therapies’, however these therapies should not be eligible for the rebate. We take this position as treatments covered by the MBS and PBS are subjected to rigorous testing for effectiveness whilst natural therapies are not. (Leanne Wells, CEO of the Consumer Health Forum)||5) Government should consider that 2 in 3 Australians have used some sort of complimentary therapies in their lifetime.|
|6)Consumers have complained to CHOICE about the inclusion of unproven medical treatments in extras policies (Choice Australia)||6) In the public’s best interests, natural medicine treatments should be considered as part of a holistic health policy, rather than a simple budget cut (ATMS)|
|8)Natural therapies would not meet the benchmarks set for interventions funded under PBS and MBS. (Consumer health forum)||7)Many of the minor ailments and common aches and pains that crowd GP surgeries (and add to overall health expenditure) are a result of people not managing stressful lifestyles. (Choice Australia Critic)|
9)People are more likely to seek unproven treatment in place of proven treatment, leading to needless suffering and loss of life (eg Penelope Dingle, Gloria Thomas)
|9) People should be explained in advance about the outcome of natural therapies treatments.|