Surge in demand for dental and allied health as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Mother with child at dentist

The latest data from Private Healthcare Australia confirms Australians are using their private health insurance for general treatment/ancillary health services at pre COVID-19 levels.

In the month of September 2020, the number of services rebated by private health insurance for dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropractic and podiatry are all at higher levels than September 2019, despite lockdowns in Victoria.

“Even with the continuing issues in Victoria, there has been a strong bounce back for dental and allied health,” according to Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David.

Health funds acted quickly during COVID-19 to ensure members could continue to get value from their private health insurance by funding telehealth across a broad range of general treatment areas. Now that restrictions have been eased, members are taking advantage of their private health cover at record levels.

Dental rebates are the largest category of general treatment services covered by private health insurance, and in September 2020 services and benefits were higher than in September 2019.

“Dental was severely affected in the national lockdown in April, but is bouncing back strongly. Services were up 15% in June as catch up work was done; and has been higher than normal in July and September.”

For the year to date, dental rebates are at 88% compared to 2019. “We are anticipating a significant catch up over the rest of the year. Dental health is so important, and we encourage everyone to make sure they get their regular dental check-up,” Dr David said.

Optical services have also rebounded strongly despite most optometrists not being available in Victoria for regular check-ups in August and September. For the year to date, optical rebates are at 89% compared to 2019.

Physiotherapy services have also been curtailed in Victoria, but that has not stopped the number of services in September 2020 being higher than in September 2019. For the year to date, physiotherapy rebates are at 91% compared to 2019.

“We expect physiotherapy services will be higher in October, and much higher in November and December as Victoria opens up. There are many Victorians who have not been able to properly look after their health and fitness, and I am anticipating that physiotherapists will not only be looking after their regular customers, but will be dealing with a higher rate of injuries as people get back to exercise and sport.

“There is a similar pattern for the fourth and fifth most common general treatment categories. Chiropractic rebates are at 97% year to date compared to 2019. Podiatry rebates are at 94% year to date compared to 2019.

“Australian health funds made a commitment to support their members throughout COVID-19 while continuing to provide essential health services. This included postponing the 1 April premium increase, introducing telehealth rebates for allied health services, investing millions in mental health programs and offering $150m in direct premium relief for members suffering financial hardship as a result of COVID19,” said Dr David.

Article published by Private Healthcare Australia on 28 October 2020. Read it here

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