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In November 2017, there was a decree from the Australian Government that a number of complementary medicine categories would no longer be able to be covered by the Private Health Insurance companies. This is what the Government has decided as part of the linked advice above.

“Rules will be made to remove natural therapies from the definition of general treatment under section 121-10 of the Private Health Insurance Act 2007. Insurers will then not be able to offer benefits for these therapies as part of a complying health insurance policy.”

Three of these natural therapies included Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi. There are many others but today I am addressing mostly Pilates.

Pilates is one form of exercise.

There are lots of ways to exercise – some are individual- walking, running, swimming.

Others are in a group setting where under an instructor (Pelvic Health Physiotherapists), clients may not only seek supervision, guidance and encouragement about exercise, but they may also have a social experience in the group setting- which has many benefits also. Tai Chi and Yoga are both wonderful ways to come together and exercise in a group setting.  Tai Chi is a great gentle balance exercise which is suitable for many older clientele and there is evidence in fact that Yoga is very useful in treating persistent pain conditions and helping alleviate those who are suffering high levels of stress and anxiety – a mental health condition which is highly prevalent in society at the moment.

I am writing this blog as I have a vested interest in two things.

One is I own an exercise studio and have (Pelvic Floor Friendly) Pilates classes available to my patients as a progression following their initial assessment and treatment programme (where their continence dilemma -and it is a dilemma when you pass wind, faeces or urine in a socially unacceptable way) has been improved and even cured. (Owning this studio and running many classes is purely an altruistic exercise for me as nobody can actually break even let alone earn make a profit when running an exercise studio – I like having the studio to progress the clients).

Secondly I want to get my patients exercising fullstop!

The evidence is strong that exercise is integral to a healthy (happy) life. It has a positive effect on your cardio-vascular system, mental health, bones, muscular system and joints – a total body gig! Many women (and men) have poor balance (so they stop exercising), they feel the exercise gives them pain (usually because they are not used to any form of exercise and they are therefore stiff-so they stop exercising) or they leak urine, gas or faeces when they exercise. Urinary incontinence and anal incontinence are big deterrents for women particularly in continuing with any exercise regime- so they stop exercising.  Then other co-morbidities such as obesity and joint pain set in.

Some examples: I have a patient whose specific goal was: ‘I am worried I might fall and won’t be able to get up off the floor’- this patient started attending the studio and now can do a whole lot more than just get up off the floor.

Another had chronic neck and shoulder pain that interrupted her sleep quality but she was fearful about how to start exercising because she had prolapse. She started at the studio and now feels 10 years younger (she is 78 so now feels 68!) and is confident to exercise and feels stronger, happier and is walking more everywhere.

Unfortunately there is no specific study to prove that she will need less pain killers and sleep medication; that her life expectancy will increase; that she will feel less lonely because once or twice a week she joins fellow class participants at the studio or the important bottom line – that she will cost the Government less money in the future health budgets.

(By the way I would like to do the Maths on the percentage for women versus men who do Pilates in Australia…. is there a hint of patriarchy about this decision?)

I would have thought in 2018 that the former Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, who was the chair of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), would see the benefits of ANY exercise and that an important role of the Private Health Insurance Companies should be to promote preventative health strategies over always waiting for intervention strategies such as a total hip replacement for hip pain (the cost of these ops is massive) or a gastric sleeve to reduce morbid obesity.

The Government states that:

Changing coverage for the listed natural therapies will ensure taxpayer funds are spent appropriately and are not directed to therapies that do not demonstrate evidence of clinical efficacy.

I think the Government is making sure there is no money wasted.

Last week, the week commencing 21st August, 2018 the Australian public graphically saw how taxpayer funds are spent inappropriately -we were exposed to the definition of a gross waste of money!

We will never know just how much last week’s shenanigans cost the Australian taxpayer.

I will highlight just the tip of the iceberg.

When I worked at QE2 Hospital 27 years ago- it went through three (3) changes of board/ region in 4 years. This required three (3) changes in stationary throughout the WHOLE hospital. Even then as a younger woman (meaning less cynical, less scarred with looking at government waste) I thought this a preposterous waste of money.

So if we just examine stationary costs due to the ‘small shuffling of jobs in the Cabinet‘ as a result of “The Spill” letterheads, envelopes, business cards – all in perfect condition but destined for the shredder.

If we look at staffing costs – people losing their jobs in offices like Malcolm Turnbull’s office, Julie Bishop’s office plus all the rest who will no longer be wanted because they know too much (and they just went to work on Monday ready to start another week of work but now may be anxious about their job future).

If we look at all the Special Envoys who are being offered jobs to appease them (to try to keep them from doing more white-anting in a few months time because really they didn’t get the result they were hoping for) Do these new jobs come with a monetary package bonus?

But mostly what about just shutting down Parliament for the afternoon. A second time that this happened to the Parliament of Australia.

I mean we are all encouraged to be Lifters not Leaners; to get up each morning, to go off to work, to turn up on site; to have a go and you’ll get a go – there’s a fair go for those who have a go. Regardless of who we are we are all here to make a contribution, not take one and finally to do something better, it’s not necessary for someone else to do worse.”

I think that all means – the Government doesn’t want us to be slackers, playing wag from work, calling in a sickie.

So who is going to do the Maths to ensure taxpayer funds were spent appropriately last week? 

I reckon when it’s all totalled up the whole of Australia could be funded for some type of exercise class/activity for a year and there still would be some change left over with all the money-wasting of the past few months.

Let your Member of Parliament know you’re unhappy about the decree abandoning Private Health Insurance coverage for any exercise you currently are covered for.