Natural therapies have claimed the fifth spot among the most commonly claimed for health insurance cover extras amid uncertainty over the clinical effectiveness of unconventional interventions and the broader impact of rising costs in the health sector.
Data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA
) for the September quarter showed that massage and yoga had the fifth highest number of services covered, following dental, physiotherapy, optical, and chiropractic services, The Australian
Natural therapy has joined the four long-dominating extras cover - also known as ancillary or general treatment cover - in the top five with an unrivalled growth rate of 1,873% over the last 20 years.
Natural therapies have their share of controversies, however. The former Labor government, concerned that the government rebate might be subsidising low-value healthcare, had initiated a review which found little evidence that natural therapies actually work.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) was commissioned by then chief medical officer Chris Baggoley to examine published evidence on 17 natural therapies, including Alexander technique, massage, tai chi and yoga, aromatherapy and ayurveda.
“Overall, there was not reliable, high-quality evidence available to allow assessment of the clinical effectiveness of any of the natural therapies for any health conditions,” the review concluded.
The government can save an estimated $32 million a year if it were to drop rebates from policies covering natural therapies.
Covering natural therapies remains under the spotlight especially during this period of government cutbacks. Insurers argue, on the other hand, that it works to attract younger, healthier members, whose premiums are needed to offset the costs of older members, The Australian
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