Alternative health care services are health treatments that are not typically provided in a traditional Western medicine practice. There are a wide range in practices, but typically these services focus on creating health through balance between mind, body, spirit, and environment. Research can help you understand the pros and cons of alternative care options.
There are different categories of alternative health services.
- "Complementary" treatments are used with standard medical practices;
- "Integrative" practices blend approaches together;
- "Alternative" treatments are in place of conventional medicine.
Insurance benefits vary widely for these services. Check with your insurance plan to see if alternative therapy is covered, and if the provider you want to see is in-network so you aren't surprised by unexpected costs.
Insurance may cover some alternative therapies
Western medical practice has accepted some alternative care approaches. There may be some coverage by your plan for some common approaches. The plan may require preauthorization or referral from your provider, so be sure to check before you have services to avoid unexpected costs.
- Acupuncture (acupressure) uses needles (pressure) along energy paths in the body to balance the flow of energy, typically for treatment of pain.
- Biofeedback teaches relaxation techniques to control body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension, to improve conditions such as high blood pressure, headaches, and chronic pain.
- Chiropractic manipulation focuses on muscles, bones, and nervous systems. Typical treatment is an adjustment to injured areas to loosen muscles, resolve pain, and regain mobility.
- Massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues, such as muscle, tendons, and ligaments to ease tension and reduce pain.
- Naturopathy typically involves a variety of treatment services including nutrition, behavioral changes, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture. Naturopathic doctors have training in both conventional and alternative medicines.
Insurance typically does not provide coverage for some therapies
Insurance plans generally do not have benefits for the following alternative approaches. Be aware that you will likely pay for all costs for services. Check with your insurance plan to verify.
- Aromatherapy uses essential oils from plant roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms to promote healing.
- Ayurveda/Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of approaches, including herbs, massage, and special diets to balance the body, mind, and spirit for overall wellness.
- Homeopathy uses the body's ability to heal itself, using diluted substances that are based on "like cures like" principles.
- Reflexology applies pressure to specific areas on the feet, hands, or ears for overall health.
- Yoga therapy uses yoga techniques such as posture and breathing exercises, deep relaxation, and meditation to help manage conditions and reduce symptoms.
Remember to check your insurance plan coverage to know if alternative therapies are included in your plan and identify any requirements before receiving care.