While Obamacare in the US is recognizing the long term health benefits of alternative medicine and embracing it as part of the Patient Protection and Afforadable Care Act, the Australian Govt is doing the opposite.
Many private health packages in Australia currently provide a small yearly rebate to attend natural or alternative health practitioners for preventative medicine or treatment. There is currently a proposal by the federal government to strip subsidies from any policies covering natural therapies not supported by scientific evidence (who deems what is or isn’t scientific evidence will be interesting to watch) as it attempts to find new ways to cut back on spending.
According to an article in the Australian, “The federal government is keen to protect its investment in the insurance rebate and is expected to introduce regulations to strip it from policies covering unproven natural therapies from April 1 — the date premiums will increase.”
The article in the Australian newspaper cites that “Over the last 10 years, fees (charged by practitioners) for general treatments have more than doubled (increasing by 109 per cent), with the highest growth occurring for natural therapies, which has grown by 358 per cent over the same period,” the regulator states in documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
It sounds to me like the federal government is only interested in protecting its investment in the insurance rebate. It is definitely not interested in promoting preventative health measures that keep people out of hospitals and doctors waiting rooms.
I say ‘yippee’ that more people are using natural medicine because this indicates that more people are willing to be proactive with their health care and take responsibility for their health. As a community we should be supporting anyone who takes a preventative approach to health care, rather than allowing themselves to become ill and a long term burden on the health system!!
The article mentions that natural therapy practitioners have been raising their fees, suggesting that this is the cause of health inflation. This seems like a ludicrous thing to bring up given that 95% of my patients have only received around $35 for their Initial Consultation and this would remain the same regardless of how much a practitioner charged.
The fact is natural health practitioners are mostly privately employed and therefore have to incur the costs that any business has to such as advertising. Investment is often made into expensive pieces of equipment to help treat the client and of course we mustn’t forget that apart from chiropractors, acupuncturists and osteopaths, no other natural therapists receive support from the Medicare system as do physios, occupational therapists, dieticians and doctors. And for the record, the average wage of a naturopath, who has studied for 4 years to attain a University Degree, is $19-$32 an hour. A bar tender or waitress can earn more than this without taking on enormous training fees and the stresses of trying to heal people that the medical system has failed to help.
A report into the rise of natural medicine has stated that there has been an increase in non-hospital treatment sessions covered by insurers of 241 percent in the 10 years up until 2012-2013. It seems to me that this coincides with the time that younger people were coerced into taking out private health care insurance Furthermore it seems only natural then that this younger population (who has not yet reached the age where chronic disease seems to have become the norm) have every right to spend their private health care investment on natural therapies and medicines that help them maintain their good health.
Another interesting point is that the greatest rise found in this review was in osteopathy services that increased by 473 percent. But osteopaths will not be affected by the proposed changes to private health care subsidies as they are covered by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agents and receive Medicare rebates.
So on the one hand we have OBAMACARE which recognizes the contribution that natural therapies make in preventing as well as treating disease and ill health in order to give Americans better long term health outcomes and reduce the USA’s health burden in the future.
But in the lucky country of Australia we have a government that is interested in short term financial gain rather than preventing chronic disease and avoiding a huge burden to our future health care system. But why should the current government care about the long term health of Australians – after all it will be ‘another government’ that inherits the burdened health care system long after Mr Abbott has been and gone.
Written by Nurse, Naturopath and Formulation Chemist, Vivienne Savill for Healthy Skin Care. www.healthyskincare.com.au