Despite billions of dollars spent annually on alternative medicine, most of these services are not currently covered by the majority of health insurers… health insurance companies still regard most alternative techniques with uncertainty.
Acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage therapy have one thing in common: They may not be covered by insurance. That’s because they may be looked at as alternative treatments, not part of conventional medical care.
Although it may seem obvious that acupuncture helps relieve, say, your chronic back pain, insurance companies often consider such therapies—from massage to herbal supplements—outside the medical mainstream. They are, after all, still referred to as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). However, many insurers do cover selected therapies on a case-by-case basis, depending on the way you request reimbursement.
About a third of American adults use some form of complementary or alternative medicine, according to reports by the National Center for Health Statistics. We spend more than $30 billion a year out of pocket on everything from fish oil supplements to acupuncture.
However, despite those billions of dollars spent annually on alternative medicine and complementary treatments, most of these services are not currently covered by the majority of health insurers.
Integrative medicine is gaining mainstream popularity, as it uses conventional medicine in coordination with nontraditional treatments such as meditation. This treatment style focuses on the "whole person" -- including social, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being -- to improve health and wellness rather than just treating physical aspects of a disease or illness.
Many Americans use complementary health approaches, but the type of health insurance they have affects their decisions to use these practices.
Alternative medicine may include interventions such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, or yoga therapy. Statistics indicate roughly 40% of the American population report using alternative therapies. Many have turned to this type of treatment when prescribed medications proved to be ineffective. Unfortunately, and despite those convincing numbers, most of these services are currently not covered by the majority of health insurers.
An increasing number of insurance companies and managed-care organizations are covering complementary and alternative medicine, fueled by consumer demand and a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating the benefits and cost-effectiveness.
A recent survey of 18 major HMOs and insurance providers, including Aetna, Medicare, Prudential, and Kaiser Permanente, found that 14 of them covered at least 11 of 34 alternative therapies.
ASH is one of the nation's leading complementary health care benefits organizations. ASH provides benefit programs, health education programs, and health-related products, administering benefit programs for 12.1 million members and affinity discount programs for over 80 million members.