Natural therapies have become the fifth most common claim on health insurance extras cover, with an unrivalled growth rate of almost 1,900% over the past 20 years.
APRA’s latest data show that natural therapies such as massage and yoga had the fifth highest number of services covered in July-September 2015, behind dental, physiotherapy, optical and chiropractic services, reported The Australian.
While the top four have long dominated extras cover — also known as ancillary or general treatment cover — natural therapy has risen from seventh to fifth over the past 20 years. Its growth rate over that period, 1,873%, easily overshadows the next highest, 320% for optical.
Natural therapies have generated controversy, however, with a review by the National Health and Medical Research Council of published information finding little evidence that they work. The review was sparked by concern that the government rebate might be subsidising low-value healthcare.
The 17 natural therapies examined in the review included the Alexander technique, massage, tai chi and yoga, which were found to have some limited supporting evidence, along with aromatherapy, ayurveda, Bowen therapy, buteyko, feldenkrais, herbalism/Western herbalism, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, naturopathy, pilates, reflexology and Rolfing.
Removing the health insurance rebate from policies covering natural therapies had been estimated to save the government A$32 million (US$24 million) a year. Insurers privately argue that covering natural therapies attracts younger, healthier members, whose premiums are needed to offset the costs of older members.