Federal Government Health Fund Reform
As most of you probably know by now, in October the Department of Health published an upsetting announcement regarding the future of health fund rebates for Bowen Therapy. The Federal Government has made the decision to stop paying rebates on health fund policies that cover natural therapies. Despite the BAA being involved in this process since the Chief Medical Officer called for submissions of evidence five years ago, the various associations supporting complementary therapists were not informed of this recent decision. We had to discover it from the news, much like many of you, and then the coverage was piecemeal at best. The release on their site is still scant on detail. The disturbing part is that many still don’t know that this is happening. The government made the move of slipping in the announcement with a raft of other measures late on a Friday in the hope that it wasn’t overly noticed – it worked.
What does it mean?
Essentially, it appears that from 1 April 2019 private health funds will no longer rebate their customers for claiming on almost all complementary and natural therapies. This is because the government will no longer rebate the private health insurers the 30% that they have been, and it’s hard to imagine the health funds would continue to rebate if they are no longer being compensated by government to do so. This is not just for Bowen Therapy. The other modalities affected are: aromatherapy, Buteyko, Feldenkrais, herbalism, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, naturopathy, Pilates, reflexology, Rolfing, shiatsu, tai chi and yoga. The modalities that seem to have not been cut are massage and nutrition.
This in no way affects your ability to practice as you do now. It simply means that your clients will/may no longer be able to make a claim for your services with their health fund.
What can we do?
While government decisions, despite consultation processes, tend to be fait accompli, we can still make a lot of noise and make people aware of our position. Write to your local member (Federal) and let them know how you feel. If enough government MPs and senators feel they may lose their seats next election, they may start to agitate internally for change. If we can make this an election issue, we may just get somewhere.
And make sure your clients, friends and family know about it too. I’ve struck many who had no idea it was going on. Make them aware. Encourage them to write to their MP, as well. We only achieve change with numbers.
We’ve spoken to some parliamentary insiders and the word is that petitions are treated much like spam and largely ignored. This requires actual letters or emails. We’ve prepared a set of templates for you and your clients to use. Alongside these are a list of questions that your MP can put to the Health Minister. Choose two or three to include in your letter – it adds some spice and weight to your correspondence.