Budget crackdown on alternative therapy rebates welcomed
SENIOR health figures have welcomed the government's reported decision to target subsidies for a range of natural therapies in order to find budget savings and secure a surplus in this week's Federal Budget.
Friends of Medicine spokesperson and professor of gynaecology and obstetrics at the University of Adelaide Alastair MacLennan said the move - which could axe government subsidies for private insurance payouts covering treatments such as homeopathy, reiki, aromatherapy, ear candling and kinesiology - would speed up medical diagnosis and save patients money.
"While many such approaches may be harmless if useless, they all too often cause harm by delaying the development of an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan and can be very expensive," Professor MacLennan said.
According to news reports, Chief Medical Officer Chris Baggoley is to be asked to review a range of natural therapies to determine whether they have been proven to be effective enough to warrant the 30% private insurance rebate subsidy currently in place.
It is understood the push would net the government up to $30 million per year.
Friends of Science co-founder Professor John Dwyer said the initiative was worth more than the financial gain for the government as it would also send a message to patients about the value of some natural therapies.
"Australians are at last being warned by their government that a large number of diagnostic and therapeutic claims made for so called 'Alternative and Complementary' medicine are without merit," he said.
Meanwhile a half-billion dollar package to cut dental waiting lists is being viewed with scepticism by the profession.
The federal government has announced a a $515.3 million dentistry package ahead of Tuesday's budget.
The package includes $345.9 million to treat some of the 400,000 patients on dental waiting lists during the next three years.
Funding will be provided to encourage more dentists to work in country areas.
Dentists are wary of the initiative, citing issues with the government's tough approach to the chronic disease dental scheme.
Dozens of dentists have been ordered to repay significant amounts after audits found they had not followed the scheme's rules.
"Dentists are a little concerned with future dental programs," Australian Dental Association president Dr Shane Fryer told ABC radio on Monday.
Asked if there was much goodwill towards the government, Dr Fryer said it had waned significantly.
"I still think it is there, it just needs to be fostered."
A Senate committee investigating problems with the chronic disease dental scheme is due to deliver its report this week.