Labor Party Plan to Stop Rebates for Natural Therapies

You may be aware that the Labor Party has announced their policy to stop rebates for Natural Therapies if they are elected on July 2, 2016.

There has been much discussion on this topic.  The NHAA would like to clarify some facts and our understanding of the potential impact should this policy be enacted.

Background – key points

1.  In the 2012-2013 budget, Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan announced the instigation of a review into Private Health Insurance (PHI) rebates for natural therapies – examining evidence supporting their clinical efficacy, cost effectiveness, safety and quality.  The NHAA provided a 45-page submission substantiating the evidence-based practices of our profession.

2.  In his 2015 report of findings, the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor Chris Baggoley AO, concluded the following:

  • Western Herbal Medicine, the reviewers acknowledge “there is a large body of research on the effects of individual herbal agents and remedies” and “highlights the importance of considering other ways in which practice could be strengthened and risks to the community minimised; for example, through the introduction of some form of national registration and accreditation scheme."
  • Naturopathy, the report states, “there is some evidence to suggest that whole-system of naturopathic practice is effective in improving patient health for a range of chronic health conditions.” 

This aligns with the NHAA’s efforts to drive higher education standards as part of our commitment towards regulation of the profession through statutory registration.

3.  On release of the report last year, the current Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley, commented that removing “natural therapies from the scope of the health insurance rebate is unlikely to deliver sufficient savings to warrant the cost of doing so… the problem here is this was purely about desperate budget cuts for Labor, not evidence…”. Read this article.

4.  In response, the current government launched the 2015-2016 PHI Consultation process with outcomes scheduled for release in the first half of 2016.  The NHAA has sought notification of findings. 

What happens if Labor wins the election and enacts this policy?

  • Private health rebates and insurance cover for Natural Therapies may be at risk, which could increase consultation costs to patients and impact your business.
  • The NHAA will lobby strongly against this policy with a view to reverse this proposed reform and in the meantime will closely monitor the situation. 

What can you do?

Some ideas for action you can take include:

  • Consider your voting preferences
  • Share this information with your patients via your social media channels, newsletters, clinic readings, discussion
  • Contact your local candidates to voice your concerns
  • Raise awareness within your practitioner community
  • Start a petition
  • Share and Like the NHAA post on this critical issue, from our Facebook page 

The NHAA exists to support Naturopaths and Western Herbal Medicine practitioners to deliver excellence in healthcare.  We will continue to strongly represent our industry so you may continue to provide this service to Australia.