A woman who received more than 400 taxpayer-funded massages and chiropractor appointments against doctors’ advice has lost her bid for the government to continue funding her 30-year treatment.
The former Commonwealth Bank employee strained her lower back moving documents in the 1980s, before the bank was privatised.
The government workplace insurer, Comcare, accepted liability for “disc prolapse” suffered by the woman.
However medical experts told Comcare at the time of her injury that chiropractic therapy “had no place in her treatment”.
But over the following decades the woman had 309 sessions of Comcare-funded chiropractic treatment.
Since 2010 she also received 99 massages.
Comcare accepted and paid for the treatments over three decades, despite it being against medical advice.
In 2018, Comcare revoked its support, after a rheumatologist found the woman no longer suffered any effects from the injury.
The expert told the tribunal that massage therapy and chiropracty could provide “short-term benefit immediately after some sort of traumatic incident, but that their long-term value is highly questionable and not supported by strong empirical evidence”.
“The reliance upon passive therapies, such as massage and chiropracty, was not in accordance with the principles of the Clinical Framework for the Delivery of Health Services,” he said.
Comcare, on the basis of the opinion, argued that the woman’s original injury had been misdiagnosed and had instead been a form of lumbar or lower-back strain.
The insurer also argued the original injury had resolved itself and it was no longer liable to pay for the treatment.
Original injury ‘had resolved’
The woman told the tribunal that the decision to undergo chiropractic treatment had been hers, after finding the mainstream and conventional medical treatments had not helped.
In a decision published earlier this month, senior member Chris Puplick found the original injury had resolved itself and the treatments were unnecessary.
“Even if such treatments were accepted as being related to the original injury, they are no longer reasonable treatments for the applicant to be receiving in her current circumstances and, by current best practice are costly, unlimited in duration, ineffective and passive,” he wrote.
“The tribunal would have to conclude that the current regime does not provide benefits which are substantial, and it does not achieve measurable benefits.
“The applicant herself says that she gets relief for a limited period but then the relief wears off and she needs more treatment.
“Such treatments do not appear to meet any test of being financially cost effective and hence a justifiable expenditure of public monies.”
However, the tribunal recommended Comcare waive a $312.80 debt, incurred after the woman was paid by mistake.