Complementary & Alternative Medicine Insurance

Treatment originates outside you; healing comes from within - Andrew Weil, M.D.

Complementary & Alternative Medicine Insurance

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With the concern around opioid abuse, more employers are asking if they should consider offering alternate medicine for pain management. 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.

There is a strong support for the use of chiropractic care, massage therapy, and acupuncture for managing muscular skeletal pain. Although employers are reviewing these alternative techniques to see if offering them for a longer duration may help with chronic pain conditions, health insurance companies still regard most alternative techniques with uncertainty.

Understanding these benefits better may help employers decide if these offerings may be right for their health insurance plans. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is reflective of two approaches to medicine that fall outside conventional methods. For example, alternative medicine is not included in the traditional training taught in medical schools, whereas complementary healthcare refers to alternative treatments used in conjunction with traditional treatments.

Even though these types of treatments have not historically been covered under health insurance plans, they may be a good solution to provide alternate options to pain medications.

According to a recent article co-authored by U.S. News & World Report and Duke Medicine, the optimal healthcare plan includes integrative medicine. Integrative medicine focuses on caring for the whole human being – body, mind, spirit, and community – not just flesh and bones. While integrative medicine is not synonymous with CAM, CAM therapies do make up an important part of the integrative medicine model.

If your plan or carrier isn’t ready to adopt these benefits under your health plan, some of these treatment options may be reimbursable through an (Health Savings Account) HSA or FSA type of account. Certain rules do apply to validate the treatment prescribed by a physician. Employers may negotiate discounts with providers in their communities to help offset some of the expenses. Regardless, without the use of long-term medications, these programs may be on the horizon for many employers.

Source: Joy Binkley, Thinking Outside the Box: Should Your Health Plan Include Alternative Medicine?, Hill, Chesson & Woody, June 21, 2018.

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Last Updated : Monday, June 1, 2020