Alternative Medicine and Health Insurance
As more and more Americans are seeking treatments from alternative practitioners, the American Medical Association and health insurance providers alike are giving far more recognition to alternative and complimentary treatments.
A recent study found that many of the top providers of affordable medical insurance in the country provide health insurance coverage for at least about one-third of the commonly recognized alternative therapies. Aetna, Prudential, Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield were among the major HMO’s that provide some coverage for complementary care. The most common therapies that were covered were chiropractic, acupuncture and naturopathic medicine. Affordable medical insurance is also now available that offers some coverage for treatments including, homeopathy, herbal remedies, meditation and other mind-body stress management techniques such as chi gong.
However proponents of alternative practices say the insurance companies are not going far enough. Coverage is often limited for alternative therapies, certainly far more limited in the amounts paid per visit, or the number of visits covered, than traditional counterparts. Patients and practitioners alike are arguing for parity. It is a difficult prospect. Several bills that sought such parity in health insurance coverage for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) have languished in congress for years.
Still, as of 2005 the IRS has recognized chiropractic, massage therapy and several other CAM practices as tax deductible medical expenses, and funds can also be withdrawn from a Health Savings Account to cover some CAM therapies – check the IRS website for details. And while some group health insurance providers are increasingly offering coverage for CAM services in response to demand, it is still far more common to find CAM services especially the less generally accepted practices, on discount plans, rather than traditional medical insurance coverage.
Yet more and more employers are offering such discount plans as part of wellness and preventive medicine programs and encourage their employees to take part in them. A recent survey found that now over 62% of American use some form of CAM, up from 1 out of every three 5years ago. The trend is rising and industry experts agree that what was yesterdays “alternative” may be today’s “conventional”. They look at Chiropractic for example, once considered alternative and rarely covered, it soon became considered “complimentary” and is now mainstream and covered by just about every major health insurance provider.
You must check with your health insurance provider whether you have employer based coverage or private health insurance to see exactly what is the extent of your coverage for CAM, and if you can access CAM coverage directly of if you need a referral from your primary care physician. If your plan does require a referral, and you are a proponent of alternative practice, you must choose your Primary carefully, he must be a practitioner who at least believes in the validity of CAM treatments or he will not likely give you a referral. Whether you have private health insurance or through your employers group health coverage you may be able to purchase a rider for CAM coverage.