Last Updated on 4 January 2021

Does Health Insurance Cover Natural and Alternative Therapies?

Woman receiving alternative therapy massage

While medical science is advancing rapidly, many people still seek the same treatments as our ancestors. We call these procedures and treatments “natural” or “alternative,” since traditional medical practitioners don’t offer them.

In this guide, we’ll give you an idea of what you can expect from alternative and natural treatments, as well as the available coverage from health funds. Not all health funds handle natural remedies the same way, so a comparison is your best friend here.

Key Points
  • Some people believe natural and alternative therapies can help to maintain health and avoid taking prescription medication. There are multiple proven and anecdotal benefits of alternative treatments.
  • Health insurance may cover some of these treatments through extras policies.
  • The government is changing their policies on alternative treatments and health care rebates, meaning some health funds might drop these select services from their products.

There is a long list of therapies and medicines that fall under the umbrella of “natural and alternative medicine.” Many of these practices have been handed down by tradition through hundreds of years.

In fact, the majority of these practices have origins that go so far back they’re hard to pin down. Societies have been using procedures like acupuncture and moxibustion for thousands of years, and a lot of people still seek out these treatments today.

Since the roots of alternative medicine are so deep in human culture, some believe that there must be some validity behind the medical claims. Others swear by these natural and alternative health practices and prefer them over the traditional Western therapeutic approach.

Australians Commenting on Benefits of Alternative Treatments

The Alternative Benefits

The benefits of alternative medicine are backed up by a combination of anecdotal and clinical evidence. For example, researchers have concluded that acupuncture is effective at treating back pain in pregnant women.

They have also shown some evidence that acupuncture and moxibustion can turn a breech baby.

Researchers have studied chiropractic treatments as well, and have seen some evidence that it can alleviate lower back pain and headaches. Some people who swear by these treatments also claim it improves overall health and treats sickness, but there’s little to no scientific research behind these statements.

Efficacy of Alternative Practitioners

Reasons for Seeking Alternative Treatments

People have different reasons for seeking natural and alternative treatment. Many people with ongoing health problems grow tired of Western medicine and seek refuge in ancient healing practices.

Others use alternative medicine as supplemental care instead of taking prescription medication.

Although the medical field is always advancing, these ancient healing practices remain consistent. Despite the variety of reasoning, some people feel as though these treatments helped them in one way or another.

Does Health Insurance Cover Alternative Treatments?

Health funds often provide packages that include certain alternative treatments, but they almost never come in a hospital policy.

You’ll be able to cover the bulk of your alternative treatment needs under extras cover. Extras cover traditionally includes vision and dental, but these alternative procedures are usually offered under the high-end extras plan.

Take care when comparing health funds for extras cover, though. Extras cover doesn’t have a universal definition, so you might find that your health fund doesn’t cover your go-to alternative treatment.

The Changing Landscape

Health funds are relatively liberal with what natural therapies they cover in their policies. They often cover a wide range of natural and alternative treatments under their extras policies while their customers gain access to the private health insurance rebate.

The private health insurance rebate is one of the ways the government incentivises purchasing private health cover. It helps to ease the burden on the public healthcare system by making premiums more affordable.

Unfortunately, the government is dropping many natural and alternative treatments from their rebate in April of 2019.

The news comes as an Australian Health Department spokeswoman claimed that, “Commonwealth funding is typically only paid where a therapy has demonstrated clinical efficacy.”

“Therefore,” she said, “the Australian Government has decided to remove private health insurance coverage for these services from complying health insurance products that attract the private health insurance rebate.”

List of Natural and Alternative Therapies Losing the Private Health Insurance Rebate in 2019

The Future of Health Cover and Alternative Treatments

You’ll still be able to claim some of these treatments through your health fund. The difference in the near future, though, is that you won’t be able to claim the government health insurance rebate on your premiums.

The Australian government is making this move as a way to lower the cost of monthly private health insurance premiums. Unfortunately, it may lead to many health funds dropping these services from their extras policies.

It remains to be seen how the industry will react to this change, but it also means it’s more important than ever to compare your cover.

If natural and alternative therapies are important to you, make sure you shop around for a health fund that offers these services. Although the Health Department claims they haven’t seen enough substantial proof of their effect, many people still attest to the positivity of these practices.

Keep in mind, though, that health funds will continue to cover other forms of natural and alternative treatment. Acupuncture and chiropractic, for instance, will still be on the “extras” list for most policies.

This new policy takes aim at certain alternative treatments, but not all of them. You’ll still find substantial coverage for some of the natural procedures you may require.


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