Australian private health insurer attitudes towards osteopathy: a qualitative study

Roger Engel*, Sandra Grace, Nicole Duncan, Brooke Wade, Josh Paterson-Allsop, Bryce O'Hara, Brett Vaughan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Australian osteopaths predominately work in private practice. The vast majority of patients who present to osteopaths fund their own care, with many receiving a rebate through their private health insurance cover. While there is little that describes the relationship between the Australian osteopathy profession and private health insurers, such information could provide an opportunity for insurers to improve coverage of osteopathy through enhanced benefits. 

Objectives: To identify the extent of private health insurance cover available for osteopathy and to explore the attitudes of private health insurers towards the Australian osteopathy profession. 

Methods: This qualitative study used: 1) content analysis of Australian private health insurers offerings for osteopathy, and 2) the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to inform interviews with representatives from Australian private health insurers. The interviews were transcribed and coded with respect to the TDF. 

Results: Of the 35 private health insurers in Australia, 33 offered benefits for osteopathy. Four interviews were conducted with representatives from the 10 largest private health insurers who provide benefits. Osteopathy represents a very small proportion of their services. The inclusion of osteopathic services is market driven. Private health insurance representatives had limited knowledge and understanding of osteopathy, however, they acknowledged the value that some of their members saw in receiving osteopathic care. Osteopathy is bundled with complementary and allied health services by 91.4% of insurers. 

Conclusion: Osteopathy is included in the majority of Australian private health insurers’ offerings because the service value-adds to their products. Further research into the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of osteopathy as well as an educational campaign that provides private health insurers with information about the scope of osteopathy are needed to secure its ongoing inclusion in private health insurance in Australia. 

Implications for practice: 

• Benefits for osteopathic treatment are covered by most private health insurers in Australia. 

• Osteopathy is viewed favourably by these insurers. 

• The findings from this research will inform strategies to secure the ongoing inclusion of benefits for osteopathic treatment by private health insurers in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100689
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
Early online date23 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Attitude
  • Australia
  • Humans
  • Insurance carriers
  • Osteopathic physicians
  • Private practice


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