Save Shiatsu and other Natural Therapy Rebates

On 13 October 2017, the Federal Government announced intended changes to the private health funds rebate system that remove rebates for 16 natural therapies, including shiatsu.

The decision was based on recommendations from a highly flawed 2015 government health review*, and a report** that informed that review.

don't save up to be sick, save natural therapy rebates, now - your health your choice

The Shiatsu Therapy Association of Australia believes that this review

  • denigrates the standing of shiatsu as a therapy to potential clients;
  • threatens the livelihood of more than 25,000 small business natural therapy practitioners nationwide, and registered training organisations;
  • disrespects the 55% of Australians who use complementary therapies;
  • overestimates the value of less than 1% savings for health funds — the rebate paid for the 16 therapies is only a small fraction of the overall rebate budget;
  • ignores government responsibility to fund research into complementary therapies;
  • disregards experience and testimonials of shiatsu practitioners and clients who have benefitted from shiatsu in Australia for more than 40 years;

The Review’s Flaws

The review was grossly inadequate and narrow in its scope disqualifying research studies not written in English and not conducted between 2008 and 2012. The review:

  • ignored the Shiatsu Therapy Association of Australia’s (STAA) feedback on the preliminary report;
  • incorrectly stated that shiatsu is distinct from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM);
  • incorrectly concluded that acupressure is not a core component of shiatsu;
  • excluded all published data on the safety, risks and cost effectiveness of shiatsu;
  • ignored academic best practice that recommends the inclusion of other research alongside randomised controlled trials to evaluate complex interventions such as shiatsu therapy.

Remedial Massage is included but links to Shiatsu are denied
Inexplicably shiatsu was removed but remedial massage was retained as an approved therapy.

However, the review itself described trigger point therapy in remedial massage as being similar to shiatsu or acupressure.

This statement not only links shiatsu to acupressure but also to massage therapy. But the government’s position is that these links do not exist and uses it to justify the cut.

Research studies and the Australian Government approved training package state that shiatsu is similar to acupressure, massage and uses both TCM and anatomy and physiology.

The decision to cut natural therapy rebates has serious repercussions because it:

  • denies Australians the right to choose treatment options (as at January 2018, 72,500 voters have signed the Your health Your choice petition)
  • imposes higher treatment costs for people who pay private health insurance
  • ignores the long-term effect of demoting preventative treatments
  • puts more pressure on an overburdened hospital system
  • removes a key incentive for practitioners to comply with professional requirements currently audited by health funds/associations.

If you, too, are opposed to the government’s intended changes to the health fund rebates system for natural therapies, please sign the:

Your Health Your Choice petition, today.


* The Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance for Natural Therapies
** An overview of the effectiveness of shiatsu for any clinical condition in humans by KP Health