Calling on the Health Minister & Treasurer for the Removal of GST

Melbourne, Australia 18 February 2020: A LEADING Australian cancer exercise specialist is calling on the Treasurer and Health Ministers to remove the GST from specialised exercise services for oncology patients, warning many are being forced to abandon exercise programs – despite overwhelming evidence these can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

Accredited Exercise Physiologist Dale Ischia, whose business Moving Beyond Cancer was recently awarded the National Exercise Physiology Practice of the Year, says accredited exercise programs have been shown to reduce the rate of cancer recurrence by up to 40%, as well as reduce death rates to the disease by as much as 61%. But exercise physiologists are one of only two allied health professionals who are required to charge GST on non-Medicare services.

“It is simply not a level playing field,” Ms Ischia said. “People with cancer are under huge financial strain and private exercise physiology services are costly for some families. Adding GST onto these fees can make it cost-prohibitive for those who are already financially stretched.”

All other allied health professionals, including audiologists, dietitians, and speech pathologists are allowed to provide GST-exempt services, as well as physiotherapists, podiatrists, herbal medicine practitioners, chiropodists and naturopaths.

Ms Ischia said the Australian Medical Association (WA) and at least two state health ministers had also previously provided in-principle support for any plan to scrap the GST on exercise programs when provided by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

“We know accredited programs for cancer patients will ultimately spare the public purse, by reducing the time these people spend in hospital, and reducing the amount of time they miss work,” she said.

“And exempting exercise physiologists from GST would not significantly change the complexity of the tax system, nor would it pose a major revenue risk to the Government as the number of practitioners is relatively small.”

Accredited exercise physiologists charge between $20 and $35 an hour for a group session with a maximum of eight participants, while the cost of one-on-one sessions can range from $95 to $160 per hour.

Ms Ischia says new data has revealed that those patients who are sedentary during treatment are 7 times more likely to visit the emergency department during the course of their therapy and 25 times more likely to be re-admitted to hospital within 30 days than those who engaged in an exercise oncology program.

“It is now well understood that exercise is a vital component of cancer management, that not only helps to prevent recurrence, it also helps to counteract treatment side effects.

“Individualised exercise oncology programs have been shown to lead to a reduction in health care costs ultimately for patients, payers and providers. It is time to take action.”

51-year-old Melbourne mother of two Fiona Dinner has been living with metastatic breast cancer for five years and her cancer has spread to her lungs. Fiona has been attending supervised exercise physiology group classes for the past four years and believes being able to attend exercise classes has contributed to her survival and overall wellbeing.

“Having these services GST-exempt would definitely make a difference to the overall cost,” she says. “It is expensive, but I want to do everything I can to reduce my risk of my cancer progressing. I feel really good at the moment and the exercise physiology program has definitely helped. These services should be made more affordable for all Australians.”

Further Interviews:

  • Accredited Exercise Physiologist Dale Ischia is available for further comment on 0407 118 818
  • Leanne Evans the Senior Policy & Relations Advisor of Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is available on 0417 282 293