Is naturopathy covered by health insurance?

Sub Editor · 25 August 2021
Some services that fall under the umbrella of natural therapies are covered by private health insurance in Australia. We explain what’s covered, and what’s not.

In this article:

What is naturopathy?

According to the Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association, naturopathy is a complete system of health care that can help treat both acute and chronic conditions. Naturopaths can use different modalities, such as herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, homeopathy, dietary and lifestyle advice, and massage therapy, to treat clients holistically. Better Health Channel adds that kinesiology, iridology, blood analysis, stool and urine analysis, hair analysis and functional testing can all be used by naturopaths, usually after a consultation in which a detailed health history is taken. This might consider factors such as your lifestyle, family history, environment and diet.

Is naturopathy covered by health insurance?

While naturopathy itself is not covered by health insurance in Australia, some of the many other services that are considered natural therapies are covered under some policies. Natural therapies that may be covered by health insurers can include remedial massage or myotherapy, acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Exercise physiology is also covered in many cases. If you’re interested in any of these treatments, it could be a good idea to check with your insurer what is and isn’t covered by your policy.

If you are considering taking out extras cover, you can compare health insurance policies with Canstar. Canstar’s Private Health Insurance Star Ratings and Awards reveal award-winning health insurers. You may also be interested in finding out which health insurer has the most satisfied customers in Australia.

What natural therapies are not covered by private health insurance?

As part of private health insurance changes introduced in 2019, the Australian Government removed cover for 16 natural therapies, including naturopathy from the definition of private health insurance general treatment, following a review by the former Chief Medical Officer that found “no clear evidence” that these treatments were effective. This means private health insurers are no longer able to offer benefits for these particular natural therapies. The following natural therapies were removed:

  • Alexander technique: an educational process that retrains posture and movement.
  • Aromatherapy: the use of essential oils in an effort to improve emotional and physical wellbeing.
  • Bowen therapy: a remedial technique that gently works on the connective tissue of the body, which proponents claim can bring about self-healing.
  • Buteyko: a breathing technique aimed at treating asthma and other breathing conditions.
  • Feldenkrais: an exercise therapy that uses mindful movement, which is claimed to bring awareness and improve movement, sensation, posture and breathing.
  • Western herbalism: the use of plants to treat and prevent disease, based on herbal traditions in some European and American countries.
  • Homeopathy: a pseudoscientific practice that involves administering diluted substances that mimic the symptoms of disease to stimulate the body’s healing response.
  • Iridology: a technique that involves examining a patient’s iris to evaluate their overall health.
  • Kinesiology: a therapy that uses muscle monitoring to find imbalances in the body and relieve them.
  • Naturopathy: a holistic treatment that incorporates a range of techniques such as nutrition, herbalism and homeopathy, which advocates claim can help the body heal itself.
  • Pilates: exercise designed to lengthen and strengthen muscles.
  • Reflexology: massaging the feet in an attempt to release ‘blockages’ and promote wellness in other parts of the body.
  • Rolfing: a technique that involves manipulating the connective tissue and soft tissue to improve balance in the body by aligning its ‘energy field’ with the Earth’s gravitational pull.
  • Shiatsu: Japanese massage technique that applies pressure to specific points of a patient’s body.
  • Tai chi: Chinese martial art that involves gentle movement to exercise the body and clear the mind.
  • Yoga: ancient Indian philosophy that is popular today as a form of exercise and for stress management.

Insurers can still  offer incentives to policyholders involving the excluded natural therapies (e.g. a voucher for a particular therapy as an incentive or bonus for becoming a member), as long as the incentive meets the private health insurance rules. Additionally, consumers can still access the excluded natural therapies outside the private health insurance system, but they will need to cover the full cost of the services.

What waiting periods apply for natural therapies?

The waiting periods that apply for natural therapies such as remedial massage or myotherapy, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can vary as part of extras policies for health insurance. You can speak to your health insurer if you are unsure about waiting periods that may apply if you’ve already taken out a policy. According to Canstar’s database, the average waiting periods for some common services are:

  • two months for general dental
  • four months for optical
  • two months for physiotherapy
  • two months for chiropractic
  • two months for massage
  • two months for psychology

What should you know before claiming natural therapy on your health insurance?

Many health insurers offer health insurance sign-up deals. While some health insurers may offer a benefit for naturopathy, it’s a good idea to read the fine print in a product disclosure statement (PDS) as part of comparing different health insurance policies. Check to see if a specific treatment you may be interested in is covered by a policy that’s on offer, and if any terms and conditions apply (such as pre-existing condition requirements). Plus, if you are need flexibility with which provider you see, you may like to check if a provider is approved by a health fund you are considering.

Additional reporting by Tamika Seeto.

Main image source: By teatian/

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This content was reviewed by Sub Editor Tom Letts as part of our fact-checking process.

Jacqui is a senior communications professional with 15 years of experience in journalism, editing and public relations. She brings international experience as a Global Content Manager for ABB and has held senior editorial roles in Australia with the Queensland Government, UQ and John Wiley & Sons.

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