The Government’s approach to changes around private health insurance coverage of natural therapies has been a complete debacle.
As we understand it, private health insurers won’t be able to offer a range of natural therapies to their consumers – a change which has come completely out of the blue. We know that many Australians are feeling blindsided, given the Government went to the last election with no plans to change the rebate on natural therapies or remove them from private health insurance coverage.
Labor knows that many Australians use natural therapies, and Malcolm Turnbull should have been upfront with Australians when they were casting their vote.
A review released by the current Government found no evidence that homeopathy and a number of other natural therapies are clinically effective. On this basis, before the last election Labor announced that although many private health insurance policies would still cover natural therapies the Commonwealth would no longer pay the Private Health Insurance Rebate for them.
This is something we have been open and upfront about – while we think people can still opt to use these therapies, given the lack of clinical evidence, we have made the difficult decision that our Budget will no longer subsidise them.
But the Government’s changes have gone much, much further. As well as banning coverage of these therapies altogether, the Liberals’ changes include targeting four natural therapies which the Government’s Chief Medical Officer says are effective: Alexander technique, Buteyko, tai chi and yoga.
We continue to scrutinise the Government’s proposal but we are particularly concerned about the implementation of these changes.
Some constituents have also expressed concern at the prospect that certain products could be banned from sale in pharmacies. Labor is following the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation closely, and looks forward to its final report and the Government’s response. Labor will finalise our own position in light of these.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is Australia’s leading expert body and Labor will continue to respect its independent advice.