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 former Prime Minister 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.
More broadly, the Government’s recent private health insurance changes do absolutely nothing to help the majority of Australians access affordable private health insurance cover that offers good value for money. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has rubber-stamped a 23 per cent increase in annual premiums, meaning an average family is paying $900 more a year – and in some cases much more.
As well as soaring premiums, the declining value of private health insurance under the Liberals is a big issue for consumers. The number of policies with exclusions has soared to more than two million under the Liberal Government – a 65 per cent increase since 2014 – leaving more and more Australians caught out when they go to use their cover. Removing natural therapies from insurance products altogether will only make this worse.
A Shorten Labor Government will cap the price increases of private health insurers at 2 per cent for two years and task the Productivity Commission with reviewing the private health system, with a focus on improving affordability and value for consumers.