Holistic Medicine and Healthcare Insurance

By Patricia Danflous

Take charge of your body…
Laughter is the best medicine…
Positive thinking speeds healing…
An apple a day keeps the doctor away…

Most people will tell you there is truth behind such statements. You probably know a cancer survivor or two who holds fast to the belief that her positive attitude and healthy diet made the difference in recovery. The holistic approach to health, which supports the integration of conventional and alternative therapies to address the whole person, is emerging as an impactful process in contemporary medicine. Such practices as acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, and  massage therapy, along with a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, exercise or relationship counseling, are becoming more common in treating mental, spiritual, and physical health. 

While patient testimonials and research indicate that the benefits of holistic medicine are significant to improved health and quality of life, many individuals are neglecting the choice because it is not covered by their healthcare insurance.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) treatments that are more commonly covered by insurance include chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage; however, health insurance companies still regard most alternative techniques with hesitation, and each company has different parameters for approval. Aetna, for example, considers medically necessary alternative medicine with specific guidelines regarding acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic services, and electrical stimulation for pain.

Treatments that are typically not included in most traditional health plans include herbal therapy, homeopathy, applied kinesiology, and naturopathy. 

If you would like to use holistic medicine and don’t know if your health insurance will cover it, contact your health insurance provider and ask: 

  • Is this approach covered for my health condition?
  • Does it need to be preauthorized or preapproved?
  • Do I need a prescription or referral?
  • Do I have coverage if I go out-of-network?
  • Are there any limits and requirements, such as the number of visits or amount you will pay?
  • How much do I have to pay out-of-pocket?

For additional information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, visit nccih.nih.gov.

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