18 Aug 2009

Physiotherapists: We'll have to pass on higher cost

10:06 pm on 18 August 2009

A decision by ACC to cut physiotherapy funding by up to 30% will force practitioners to pass on the extra cost to clients, a group representing physiotherapists says.

The Society of Physiotherapists says the profession was shown to be already under-subsidised two years ago.

From 16 November, the Accident Compensation Corporation will offer only a partial subsidy to patients at a flat rate, paving the way for physiotherapists to add their own charges, the way doctors do now.

ACC has confirmed it is to cut funding by as much as 30%, contributing $44 for the first appointment to a physiotherapist and $32 for follow-up visits.

But the society's president, Jon Warren, says the profession is already suffering.

Mr Warren says the lack of a subsidy for people on low incomes could stop people who need physio from using then service.

ACC says physiotherapy costs have risen more than 200% in the past nine years, which is an unsustainable rate. It also says there is no evidence that the treatments are speeding up recovery from injuries.

ACC spokesperson Gail Kettle says rises in costs of this magnitude are unsustainable for levy payers and the ACC scheme.

Ms Kettle says ACC will continue to monitor access to physiotherapists to ensure that the move does not have an adverse effect on specific groups.

Mr Warren estimates the top-up cost per appointment will be between $10 and $20. He says the move may stop people seeking treatment in tough financial times.

Employers 'relieved' at changes

Employers say they are pleased they will not have to pay for any more unnecessary ACC-funded physiotherapy treatments and hope this will mean a reduction in levies.

The Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association says people have been going in for two or three extra physiotherapy treatments - which made them feel good but did not help them return to work any quicker.

The association's occupational health and safety manager, Paul Jarvie, says companies will be relieved by the changes because they are funding a scheme which is out of control.

Mr Jarvie says people will think twice about paying for treatments they do not need if they are charged.