In January 2021 the ANC wrote a pre-budget submission for the federal government to consider.
It is estimated that naturopathic practitioners consult with approximately 6% of the Australian population, equating to some 1.5 million Australians, engaging in around four million consultations each year. The preventative orientation of naturopaths contributes to alleviating the burden on public health care systems by promoting the health of consumers and preventing them from moving into the health care system.
The ANC made two recommendations.
Recommendation 1: Reinstate subsidy of private health insurance rebates for naturopathy
Despite strong evidence of the positive effect of naturopathic care in supporting chronic conditions, the federal Department of Health ruled that naturopathy be removed from PHI coverage in April 2019. This policy change has conferred additional costs to the Australian government and exposed the public to unnecessary risks by removing one of the few protections in place that allowed the public to identify appropriately trained naturopaths.
The ruling that prohibits rebates for consultations with a naturopath should be changed to permit PHI companies to provide rebates for health practices they deem to be of value to their customers. Furthermore, the government should act on previous recommendations from government reports examining the regulatory requirements of the naturopathic profession in Australia and initiate the process of including naturopathy in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.
Recommendation 2: Dedicated Federal Government funding for naturopathic research
Research examining naturopathic care is critical to effective clinical decision-making, healthcare delivery, professional development and policy direction. In particular, research is urgently needed to extend the existing evidence-base regarding the clinical effectiveness, economic impact, and service delivery of naturopathic care with a focus on health conditions of national priority and commonly seen among individuals consulting with naturopaths.
The government should commit $5 million of dedicated funding from the Medical Research Future Fund to examine naturopathic medicine and practice interventions to manage national health priority areas and conditions and supports pragmatic, practice-based and comparative effectiveness research and other designs that acknowledge and reflect real-world practice and use.