PACFA submission to ACCC Private Health Funds

In January PACFA made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the anti-competitive practices of Private Health Funds and their failure to provide consumers with clear and accessible information about their products.

Currently, limited coverage is provided for counselling or psychotherapy by four Private Health Funds. Other Private Health Funds provide rebates for “psychology” which may involve psychologists providing counselling or psychotherapy services. This is very confusing for consumers, as psychologists are not the only health professionals who provide counselling and psychotherapy services.

The overall lack of recognition of counsellors and psychotherapists by Private Health Funds makes it difficult for consumers to access information about private health insurance rebates for counselling and psychotherapy. Private Health Funds do not provide clear and accessible information for consumers about rebates available for counselling and psychotherapy (when they are offered). To improve consumer access to information on available rebates, Private health insurance products should include information on the rebates related to particular services such as counselling or psychotherapy services, rather than identifying only one type of practitioner that provides those services, e.g. psychologists.

PACFA’s submission reports on the problems consumers of counselling and psychotherapy service have encountered accessing information about options for rebates for these services. In particular, we report on difficulties consumers have understanding the coverage provided by Medibank Private, Westfund and Australia Unity Health counselling and psychotherapy, and getting their rebates paid.

It is clear that consumers often don’t know whether they are entitled to rebates for counselling and psychotherapy, and that information on entitlements is crucial to them making informed decisions. Consumers are not aware that the coverage for “psychology” or “clinical psychology” is limited to practitioners with particular qualifications and does not extend to counsellors and psychotherapists. Consumers are not aware of the differences between the different professions that all practice counselling and psychotherapy.

In its submission, the PACFA argues that failure by Private Health Funds to recognise counsellors and psychotherapists has placed counsellors and psychotherapists at a significant competitive disadvantage compared with psychologists. There are no valid regulatory, medical, evidence-based or other reasons for excluding counsellors and psychotherapists from private health insurance rebates, and this exclusion has made it difficult for consumers to freely select private health insurance policies that will meet their needs for counselling or psychotherapy services.

DOWNLOAD PACFA’s submission to the ACCC.