Coverage for Alternative Medicine


Like every employer, you are no doubt exploring options to save money on your company’s health care costs. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to add coverage for more treatments, providing some coverage for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments is a growing trend and may actually be cost-effective in the long run.


What is CAM?

Complementary and alternative medicine encompasses many different treatments, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, natural supplements, meditation and more.


The effectiveness of these treatments is uncertain; some have shown positive results, but others remain largely untested. For this reason, these remedies are traditionally not covered under health insurance plans, though they are popular among consumers.


A Growing Trend

More recently, however, some carriers have started including benefits for certain CAM therapies in their health plans. These therapies are generally not covered completely, but rather may be offered through a discount program or covered for a limited number of annual visits. Manually managing claims for these services can help ensure medical necessity.


The Cost Benefits

If the effectiveness of CAM therapies hasn’t been fully substantiated, what is the benefit of including CAM treatments in your health plan? Although results aren’t conclusive, there have been many studies showing favorable or promising outcomes regarding the effectiveness of certain CAM therapies. Many experts believe that the optimistic results to this point make offering this benefit a smart move while waiting to discover the full return on investment.


In addition, many of these treatments are more cost-effective than traditional therapies, so even if they are only somewhat effective, this can save both the employee and the employer health care dollars. For instance, using chiropractic care to treat lower back and neck pain has been proven medically beneficial and is less expensive than the traditional treatments for these conditions, such as surgery. Similarly, using acupuncture instead of anesthesia may be just as effective but cost less.


Adding the use of CAM therapies to supplement or replace traditional treatment options can save money and may even help the employee return to work faster, in the event of a workers’ compensation injury. One example would be using acupuncture and meditation to recover from an injury, in conjunction with a typically prescribed regimen of physical therapy and prescription pain killers. If the alternative treatments were effective, it may decrease the number of physical therapy visits necessary and help the person heal faster or better manage the pain. This would help the employee ease off dangerous pain killers quicker and thus return to work sooner.


Making Your Decision

Different carriers may offer different plan options for covering certain CAM therapies. Allegeant LLC can help you explore the options and find a plan that works for you and your employee group.

This Benefits Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice.

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