Wanna hear about something that I’m finding really frustrating at the moment? Trying to join a gym. There are gyms everywhere and everyone I’ve spoken to at gyms? Totally fine and lovely. They have to be or who would ever join up?
It’s not so much the joining of the gym that’s frustrating, it’s the cost.
You can spend approximately $12-$30+ a week on gym membership. It’s not cheap. For those of us doing the 38-40 hour a week grind, it means using your gym at least 3 times a week, for good value as well as good health. For those of us that work ridiculous hours, there are even 24 hour access gyms, for your 3 a.m. workout or whatever.
Exercise: Science Says it’s Amazing
We all know the value of exercise. Good exercise is one of the best things you can do your your overall well-being. Not only will you keep physically fit, something that is obviously important to your health, but there are mental benefits as well. Exercise is thought to be beneficial for conditions like depression, for example. Out of all the many things you can do for yourself, to stay well and healthy, I am sure we all agree that exercise is WELL UP THE BLOODY LIST. Lower risk of cancer, better blood pressure, stronger bones- just to name a few!
Which is why I am baffled by the fact that most health funds don’t cover gym memberships. Of all the things you can do to keep healthy, exercise isn’t something health funds want to pay for. Why?? Are they worried too many people will claim their membership? Or too many will join gyms and get *gasp* healthier?!
Claiming is a pain
Of the ones that do cover it, it isn’t straightforward. You need a GP to sign off on a Health Management Form which says that you need the membership to treat a medical condition. I assume this is where you have to say you’re obese or diabetic or whatever. And I think that kinda sucks. Other preventative treatments, like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist, are covered. Why not exercising at a gym?
The First Problem- It’s not worth it
And when I did find funds that covered gym membership, two things stood out to me. The first is the amount covered. I couldn’t find one that covered more than $150 per year. Now, I am no math expert, but riddle me this:
To get on a plan that covered this arguably small amount, I would need to pay more. With my current fund, I would have to move up to a plan that would cost me an additional $14 per fortnight, give or take a few cents. $14 by 26 fortnights in a year comes to $364. So, I must pay $364 to save $150. Why on earth would I do that, I asked the nice young man, Stephen, at the place that compares all of the funds for you. “Oh!” he said, “That’s because of the bundled nature of health funds!” Which brings me to the second thing that caught my attention. The “bundling”.
The Second Problem- Bundled with BS
To be able to claim anything back on your gym membership, as mentioned, you have to have a plan that allows it. And in every one I looked at, gym membership was bundled with woo. Pseudoscience. Clap-trap. Stuff I would never use.
I do not understand why exercise, one of the most widely known and accepted ways to keep your body healthy, is bundled in with this stuff. Chiropractic, for example, which has been demonstrated to have little to no benefit and can even be argued to do more harm than good. Or naturopathy, based on vitalism and folk lore rather than scientific evidence. To be completely honest, I don’t know why treatments that don’t work are covered at all. Stephen, at the place that compares all the funds, reckons they’re just meeting demand. But I’d argue that they’re also part of the problem.
Legitimising the Woo
When a health fund offers cover for alternative remedies that we know don’t work, they are also lending them legitimacy. Why would a health fund cover a treatment that doesn’t work? It’s an interesting question and I suspect many people don’t realise that they do. Stephen, the health fund comparison guy, was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a great deal of evidence to support the use of acupuncture, for example.
If people insist on using alternative remedies, even in a complementary sense, then of course they should have the choice to do so. But that choice should be educated. Many might not realise that non-evidence based treatments come down to the scruples of the provider. Just a few months ago,a naturopath was jailed for her role in almost killing a baby with her health advice. She told a mother to stop conventional evidence-based treatment, eat raw food only and then consume water only, to treat the exclusively breastfed infant’s eczema. He was malnourished, emaciated, dehydrated and near death when finally admitted to hospital.
Alternative practitioners are often under-regulated, without the strict guidelines that medical doctors must adhere to. But while they pop up on your health fund cover, they might seem pretty legit.
Yo, Health Funds!
If you’re reading this (doubtful, but who knows) do me a solid. If you must cover bullshit treatments that don’t work, how about specifying that or at least providing links to customers, so they can learn for themselves. And stop mashing gym memberships in with this BS. Instead, make it part of your standard membership.
The healthier your members are, the less we’ll claim!