Mixed response to fund lifestyle cuts

Private health funds' decision to cut rebates for some ancillary “lifestyle” products and services such as fitness club memberships, gym shoes and relaxation CDs has received a mixed response from consumer groups. The Australian Consumers' Association's health policy officer was critical of the move saying the Federal Government was “ripping $2.3 billion a year” out of the health system and giving it to private health insurance companies.

But the Consumer Health Forum said fitness products are not necessarily providing a direct benefit and they're also giving “inequitable access” to people in regard to healthy lifestyle choices. People who can afford private health insurance may opt for those extras but others can't even afford private health cover, let alone those lifestyle extras, the CHF said. Funds should only offer these benefits if there's a medical need. There are better ways to spend government health system money, it said.