Holistic Coverage

Holistic therapies such as acupuncture and shiatsu massage are
becoming as mainstream and routine as a trip to the dentist. But
getting adequate insurance coverage for such treatments is anything
but the norm. As Emily Dulcan reports for
Conscious Choice, somewhere between one
third and one half of the nearly $50 billion Americans spend on
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) a year are
out-of-pocket expenses.

Alternative Medicine explains that
insurance companies have typically shied away from approving CAM
claims because of a lack of studies testing the efficacy of the
treatments. Efforts are underway, however, to remove that
roadblock. Both the
National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine
and the state of Washington are
currently working to bolster holistic medicine with further
studies of the field. And a few inroads are being made on the
coverage front. Dulcan reports that in Washington ‘every
state-regulated insurance plan must cover some number of
licensed alternative practitioners.’ In other states, some
insurers now offer partial benefits or discounts — as with
Aetna and Kaiser Permanente — but coverage is often limited and
more expensive. In the case of Blue Shield of California, the
decision of whether employees will have to pay extra for
holistic coverage rests on the employer.

While there are a growing number of insurers offering some
coverage, their numbers are still few and finding them can be a
daunting task. Enter Alternative Health Insurance Services, an
innovative company that helps match folks up with group insurance
plans that accept claims for alternative therapies. For founder
Steve Gorman, this approach isn’t just about offering alternatives;
it’s about saving money. ‘If you can prevent somebody from getting
a major illness, even if it costs a little more on the front end…
that would save tons and tons of money, rather than waiting until
someone has a disease and then treating it.’ Such cost efficiency,
Alternative Medicine explains, is rooted in holistic
medicine’s focus on disease prevention, rehabilitation, and the
elimination of the need for costly pain medications and further

Although the process has been slow, Alternative
reports that ‘insurance companies are beginning to
capitalize on the popularity of natural alternatives, and consumers
are starting to reap the benefits.’ Dulcan adds that more research
should shore up support from insurance companies and streamline the
benefits for customers.

Fostering a more direct relationship between holistic and
conventional practitioners might also help. Alternative
reports that Northern Ireland is currently breaking
new ground with a program that allows mainstream doctors to refer
patients directly to CAM health centers. ‘Such melding of
mainstream medicine with alternative therapies,’ Alternative
reports, ‘is a definite boon for patients who want to
take better care of themselves naturally and paves the way for
insurance companies to provide more consistent coverage.’

Go there >>
Naturopathy, Bodywork, Acupuncture… Claim

Go there, too >>
Will My Health Insurance Cover Complementary and
Alternative Medicine Treatments?

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