Important Member Update on Private Health Insurance Review

Important Member Update on Private Health Insurance Review

Government, Industry, Practise

The Australian Association of Massage Therapists Board would like to update members about AAMT’s strategy in relation to the review of Private Health Insurance Rebate for Natural Therapies.

As recently as last week AAMT was in dialogue with Minister Sussan Leys’ office, requesting an update on the Government’s decision. AAMT was advised that the Government, as yet has made no decision and that they will release a response to stakeholders when appropriate.

The leaked draft Report prepared by the Chief Medical Officer and Review panel was not prepared as a recommendation to the Government to remove massage from the rebate system as has been reported in some quarters. The question was as to whether the modalities named in the review had sufficient evidence to remain a taxpayer funded rebate. The Government may decide to adopt the recommendations, revise them, or as this was a Labour Government initiative, dismiss the Review.

It is important to note that the rebate was enacted by a Liberal Government as a tax incentive for middle income wage earners. This was an economic decision designed to encourage individuals to take up private health insurance, and not a reflection of the health value and benefits of complementary medicine or massage.

In the current political and economic climate, the Government is likely to seek a solution to the Federal budget priorities while attempting to balance the need to appeal to their constituency, conservative voters, those with health insurance who rely on the rebate and the commercial needs of the Funds who obtain their members through selling extras. They must also consider the ramifications of any changes in regards to cost, access and quality of health service delivery in Australia.

While there is a place for public statements and rallying the troupes to get your message heard, the majority of policy debate and discussion goes on behind the scenes at a bureaucratic level as our elected representatives depend on the bureaucracy for advice, analysis and material support. It is here that the elected government’s policy agenda is put into practice.

This takes time, because the government must accommodate a vast variety of pressing needs and agendas. Those organisations and interests who work with government as an industry partner to find solutions, and contribute to this process are more likely to have their policy thinking understood and acted upon.

The AAMT’s aim is for members to gain as professionals in the health sector. During the past twenty-four months AAMT has worked consistently with three Federal Health Ministers and a number of State Ministers on a variety of massage industry issues. There are other serious items on the agenda that affect the prosperity and professional standing of massage therapists including: the National Code of Conduct for Health Workers; AAMTs work with the Ministers office in relation to a central register of therapists, a strategy to reduce fraud, sexual assault and non professionals being promoted alongside our qualified members; and developing a recognised and accepted massage research methodology which will assist in the further integration and acceptance of massage as valuable contributor to health care in Australia.

AAMT Board will not undermine this work by responding publicly to speculation or hearsays about massage industry issues. Should the need arise, AAMT will call on members’ support based on fact not media supposition.

AAMT Board will continue to act in the best interests of our members by working with Federal and State Health Ministers nationally, as an ally of government, not an adversary. As a Board of practitioners, the Board re-assures members that we are more than aware of the Private Health Insurance Rebate issues at hand and will continue to work with ministers and government representatives in a mature and consultative manner.

Paul McCann