The Medicare Breakthrough

Words taken from Activate, March 2011 issue; Activate, June 2017 issue; Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer; and Carly Ryan, ESSA Standards Manager.

In late-2005, a major breakthrough occurred for ESSA (previously known as AAESS) and Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) when the Australian Department of Health and Ageing approved AEPs to deliver clinical exercise services for people with chronic medical conditions under the taxpayer-funded national health scheme, Medicare Australia (as of 1 January 2006).

As one of the most significant moments in ESSA's history, it was important to highlight the story of this breakthrough for our 30th anniversary.

Before 2006
The years between 1996-2000 were important years of development for the profession and set the stage for many of the advances that followed.

While presentations to government to obtain the GST exemption were unsuccessful, they provided an opportunity for ESSA to increase its profile and understanding of the profession and develop links within the Department of Health and Ageing, Ministers, and key advisors. There is little doubt these were crucial submissions in the lead up to achieving Medicare acceptance.
Then the announcement came:
  • “From 1 January 2006, exercise physiologists will be among the allied health professionals able to provide Medicare services to people with chronic and complex illnesses.” – The Hon. Tony Abbott, previous Minister for Health and Ageing.

“I will never forget the headline going out to all members in late 2005: “We got it!” This referred to the once in a generation breakthrough signalling the entrance of AEPs into Medicare. I don’t think anyone who was involved with ESSA (AAESS) at that time will ever forget that exhilarating moment of the Medicare announcement, and we are forever grateful for the main contributors to this who were able to convince the Health Minister at the time, Tony Abbott, of the power of exercise as medicine.” – Professor Steve Selig, ESSA National Board Director.

“This decision was significant for a variety of reasons, one being that AEPs were finally recognised as an allied health professional. This meant we were with our right peers in recognition of our knowledge, skills, and capabilities. Medicare is the primary access to subsequent funding – DVA, private health funds, etc., so it was important that our expertise were acknowledged and accessible by the government.” – Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.
The ball kept rolling
Once Medicare was approved, the National and State Boards began expanding the range of compensable schemes open to AEPs, with WorkCover, DVA, Comcare, third party motor vehicle injury insurers in most states, and many private health insurers approving the provision of clinical exercise services by AEPs.

Medicare’s statistics showed that the number of exercise physiology services (MBS item 10953) grew from 17,054 in 2006 to 72,067 in 2010.

This work undertaken by ESSA on behalf of our practising members continues to this day and has provided a rapid expansion of vocational opportunities for AEPs.

“This was a milestone achievement for the profession of Exercise Physiology and resulted from many years of lobbying to government and the delivery of excellent evidence-based services from exercise physiologists.” – Dr. David Bishop, ESSA Past President.
Fast forward to today
The recognition of Medicare continues to be one of the greatest milestones of ESSA’s history.

“Although the recognition of AEPs within Medicare happened while I was still at university, I have worked at ESSA now for the past seven years and I have gained such an appreciation for the amount of work, time, energy and passion that goes in to advocating for ESSA professionals, such as what went into gaining recognition in the NDIS.

They key characteristics I have observed is that it takes a cohesive effort, persistence in building relationships, strong evidence, the right type of environment, and a little bit of luck. Even 15 odd years later the Medicare breakthrough and those involved are still talked about and has served as inspiration for much of the work ESSA has done in recent times.”
– Carly Ryan, AEP and ESSA Standards Manager.

“After the Medicare announcement, there was finally a defined career path for Exercise Physiology and the recognition of the role that exercise is medicine and people with a specific qualification are needed to undertake these roles.” – Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

Supporting health through exercise for 30 years 

To celebrate 30 years of Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), we are reflecting on 30 stories which commemorate the profound impact the exercise and sports science industry and its professionals have had on our communities, and how they have benefited the health landscape in Australia.

Click here to read more like this one