Complementary & Alternative Medicine Insurance
Treatment originates outside you; healing comes from within - Andrew Weil, M.D.
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.
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.