Currently, Australians with private health insurance are (subject to the particulars of their policy) able to claim a rebate for Alexander Technique lessons. The Australian Federal Government has recently conducted a review of health fund inclusions. It intends to place restrictions on what modalities private health funds may rebate and proposes to exclude Alexander Technique from April 1st, 2019. The letter below is an appeal to the Minister for Health not to ignore the solid clinical support for Alexander Technique.
ATT: The honourable Greg Hunt, Minister for Health
Dear Mr Hunt,
I am writing to you in your capacity as Minister for Health in regard to the Private Health Fund Review
I mostly work with clients who are in pain and/or debilitated. I train them to independently manage their own health in a way that impacts positively on pain levels, and enables them to improve on functioning. The modality I practice is Alexander Technique.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence officially recommended Alexander Technique in August 2017. It based its endorsement on 'overwhelming evidence of benefits and safety'. In spite of consistent inclusions such as this, in the recent review, the Cheif Medical Officer proposes to exclude Alexander Technique from private health insurance products.
This is rather perplexing. There have been no contraindications for Alexander Technique, and there is a growing body of peer reviewed clinical trials which consistently affirm the effectiveness of Alexander Technique.
One such study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in November 2016 found patients taking Alexander Technique lessons experienced more than a 30% reduction in their chronic neck pain. A 25% reduction in pain is considered clinically significant. As Time magazine points out in their coverage of the study, physical therapy and exercise lead to only about a 9% reduction in pain.
The same study also showed significant longevity in pain reduction (the study period was 12 months), which is reflective of Alexander Technique’s emphasis on education. Since Alexander Technique trains clients to improve and sustain good health, it is very much in line with the Chief Medical Officer’s interest in reducing the financial burden of health care.
In a submission the Australian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (AUSTAT) made to the Natural Therapies Review in 2012, two other studies were referred to as examples of clinical trials which support the effectiveness of Alexander Technique.
The randomised control trial published in the BMJ in 2008, demonstrated dramatic reduction in pain levels for people with chronic back pain following Alexander Technique sessions. Pain levels remained significantly reduced at one year. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported alarming rates of disability and disengagement from work due to chronic lower back pain. The BMJ research shows that Alexander Technique can be a successful intervention for this condition.
Another example was related to the second-most prevalent neurodegenerative disease in Australia: Parkinson’s. Disability and depression scores associated with Parkinson’s disease were significantly reduced in subjects receiving the Alexander Technique intervention, according to a trial published in 2002 in the Clinical Rehabilitation, a highly ranked, top-10 rehabilitation journal.
In excluding Alexander Technique from private health insurance products, the demonstrated effectiveness of Alexander Technique is being inappropriately dismissed. It contradicts the purpose of the Natural Therapies Review and contradicts scientific evidence based assessment.
Please consider approving Alexander Technique for private health insurance where referral is made by a General Practitioner or other approved allied health practitioner so that Australians are given a fair access to a multidisciplinary team approach to health care.
Poise Alexander Technique
Glen Iris, Victoria, Australia
image courtesy of pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons