It’s a disappointing week to be an Australian who benefits from natural therapies — as I know you all do. From 1 April 2019, the Australian Government will no longer support a range of natural therapies — including Naturopathy — through private health insurance subsidies.
Now, the Labor Party have made clear that should they win the next election, they plan on applying GST to these excluded natural therapies.
These decisions are surprising, particularly as they are based on a review by the National Health and Medical Research Clinic (NHMRC) in 2015 which is now under investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The review misled the public by not following recognised guidelines or standards in reviewing evidence, lacking transparency and withholding critical information.
The government says that while consumers can still choose to access these services, they will no longer be able to claim benefits from their insurer.
Understandably, this has upset a large number of Australians who proactively use natural therapies to improve their health. It has also caused confusion as to how this decision has been passed.
Did they review the right evidence?
There are countless studies which have found robust evidence for the individual therapies used by Naturopaths. This includes omega-3 fish oil, probiotics, magnesium, turmeric, curcumin, the Mediterranean diet and meditation, just to name a few.
One of the major flaws in using this NHMRC report to guide public health policy is that it only reviewed studies that looked at Naturopathy as a complete health service. Studies of this nature are rare — few choose to study Naturopathy as a whole service and instead prefer to study the component therapeutics used by Naturopaths such as specific herbal and nutritional therapies.
Not considering the numerous reviews on these Naturopathic treatments is like saying there is no value in seeing a doctor for high cholesterol, without any consideration for the pharmaceutical medications they prescribe to manage cholesterol.
Is the Australian Government missing the point?
Complementary medicine is just that – it complements orthodox treatment. Naturopaths are able to provide a holistic and personalised solution to your underlying health concerns by prescribing herbal and nutritional supplements, diet, exercise, and lifestyle advice. They take your doctor’s advice, blood tests and pharmaceutical prescriptions into consideration and look at the whole picture to get the best outcome for you.
Naturopathic treatments have been shown to optimise the results achieved with conventional treatments and minimising the risk of potentially harmful side effects of prescription medication.
Naturopathy, when utilised as the first port of call, has the ability to reduce the burden on the traditional healthcare system significantly.
Is Australia lagging behind other countries?
Around the world, other countries are leading the charge accepting nutritional and herbal treatments as effective, everyday medicine.
The Swiss Federal Council acknowledge that complementary medicine meets statutory regulations when it comes to effectiveness, and guaranteeing high quality and safety. Services such as homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbal medicine, are covered by mandatory health insurance.
In India, traditional medicine is widely used, especially in rural areas where 70% of the Indian population lives. Services like Naturopathy, homeopathy, and yoga are all recognised by the Government of India.
While the Australian government is balking at providing support for these services, 70% of the Australian population use over-the-counter natural medicines and one-third of the population use complementary therapies such as Naturopathy, massage therapy and chiropractic — showing huge public support.
Your Health is Your Business.
Naturopaths believe in prevention above all else. We shift the emphasis from ‘managing’ disease and symptoms to building and maintaining the best possible health. We educate and empower people to attain better health by adopting a more natural lifestyle.
Rather than providing a band-aid that covers up symptoms, the goal is to identify and treat the cause with non-invasive, safe and effective natural therapies. All of these therapies have an abundance of research behind them, even if the entire practice of naturopathy as a ‘health service’ has yet to be extensively studied.
When it comes to your health, your freedom of choice should never be confined as to what the Government stipulates as ‘good for us’.
Despite what the Australian Government has concluded, embracing a health-enhanced lifestyle and working alongside a natural healthcare professional, can provide those with presenting health concerns with a greater quality of life.
We will continue to make our voice heard when it comes to the benefits of Naturopathy, and we encourage you to as well. You can:
Express your concerns to your health fund in writing — make sure to include your member number and how Naturopathy has improved your health
Have your say – Let the government know how you and your family’s health will be impacted. Register here to sign the petition – https://www.yourhealthyourchoice.com.au/save-rebates/
Speak with your feet — show your health fund you’re not happy with the changes by dropping your ‘extras’ cover. Money talks!