Alternative Medicine and Health Insurance Coverage

Have you ever been to a chiropractor or acupuncturist? If so, you’re not alone! Almost 40% of American adults use a form of alternative medicine during the year. While many health insurers will help pay for some alternative care, they don’t provide as much coverage as with traditional medicine. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Considered Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine is any non-conventional healthcare practice that is used in place of traditional, Western medicine. When one of these practices is used alongside conventional medical treatment, it is considered complementary medicine. Complementary and alternative services include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy
  • Dietary supplements / Nutrition
  • And more!

Which Alternative Care Services are Covered by Insurance?

Acupuncture and chiropractic care are commonly used to help treat a wide variety of conditions, such as migraines, back pain, and gastrointestinal disorders. Many health insurance plans help pay for acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, but they can limit the number of visits they’ll cover. Your insurer may also require you to prove that the treatments are medically necessary by getting a prescription or statement from your primary care doctor.

Other types of alternative care are typically not covered by insurance, but you may be in luck. If you’re able to get a prescription for massage therapy, for example, your insurance may help cover a certain number of massages. Alternatively, some insurers will discount alternative care services if you visit an in-network provider.

The best way to know for sure? Read up on your plan details!

How Can I Find My Plan’s Details?

You can see if (and how) your plan covers acupuncture, chiropractic care, and other alternative care by looking at your Summary of Benefits. This is a document that explains your plan’s specifics. Just Google “[Your Plan Name] Summary of Benefits” to find it; alternative medicine is usually in its own section. If it’s not covered, it will be listed at the end of the document in a section titled, “Excluded Services & Other Covered Services.”

What if Insurance Doesn’t Cover the Services I Need?

If your plan doesn’t cover alternative care, consider these two approaches to affording the services you need:

  1. Use a Health Savings Account. You can typically pay for alternative treatments tax-free with an HSA. This way, you can use your savings to pay for care while lowering how much you owe at tax time.
  2. Take advantage of member discounts. Most insurers offer discounts on a variety of products and services, like supplements, gym memberships, and more. They also typically discount chiropractic care and acupuncture when you use in-network providers. To see which savings your insurance company offers, simply Google “[Your Insurer’s Name] Member Discounts.”

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