How Much Do Holistic Treatments Cost without Insurance?
Many health insurance companies are starting to cover some holistic medicine treatments as it has become increasingly popular globally. However, most coverage plans are narrow and restrictive, only covering very selective treatments. Most people pay for holistic care out-of-pocket, with services ranging from $15 to $600.
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How Much Do Holistic Medicine Treatments Cost
In the United States, holistic medical practices are more formally referred to as CAM - ‘complementary and alternative medicine.’ About 38 percent of U.S. adults and 12 percent of children report the use of CAM. Below is a list of the costs for some of the most common CAM treatments in the country.
Cost and Types of Holistic Medicine
|Acupuncture||$15-$400 per visit|
|Chiropractic or Osteopathic treatment||$30-$300 per visit|
|Reiki||$60-$90 per visit|
|Homeopathy||$50-$600 per visit|
What is Holistic Medicine
Also known as “alternative medicine,” holistic medicine is a form of healing that goes back 5,000 years before modern medicine was established. These treatments focus on more than just the patient’s physical body by emphasizing their mind, emotions, and spirit. The philosophy behind holistic medicine holds that each individual is composed of interdependent parts (body, mind, heart, and energy), all of which need to be in perfect balance to achieve optimal health.
This was the most widely used form of medical treatment in many countries until the 1860s when a group of German scientists discovered the Germ Theory. This discovery initiated a transforming phase in medicine as germs were identified as disease-causing agents. It shifted the focus of Western medicine from prevention to intervention and cure. With time, only ‘scientifically’ proven medical practices were backed by most western governments and health practitioners.
Today, some countries such as India and China continue to practice ancient forms of holistic medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda are some of the most well-documented and ancient styles of holistic medicine. In the United States, yoga, meditation, and chiropractic therapy are the most commonly used approaches. A survey conducted by the CDC in 2017 found that the use of alternative medicine approaches has been gaining popularity in the country, especially amongst women.
Health Insurance Coverage of Holistic Medicine
Most health insurance payers do not offer coverage for holistic medical treatments typically due to ‘sufficient scientific backing’ of holistic healthcare. The holistic medicine industry is no longer a small player in the healthcare market and consistently grows each year. The NCCIH survey has found that Americans are becoming increasingly willing to pay out of pocket for their holistic medicine treatments.
In the U.S., about $30.2 billion are spent each year on complementary health products and treatments. These costs are not covered by insurance and are paid entirely out-of-pocket by the patient. It is increasingly evident that there is a significant demand for practices such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, and other alternative treatments. However, this demand is not represented in the coverage offered by many health insurance plans.
In 2000, the U.S. government formed the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP) to better address the costs and delivery of holistic medicine practices in the country. The commission has identified that the lack of scientific evidence to support the “medical effectiveness'' of CAM is a major barrier to gaining coverage. Another significant impediment is the lack of standardization in holistic medicine. Practitioners of such treatments have diverse training and educational backgrounds, making it hard to establish a “standard of care” within this industry.
Certification or License for Holistic Medicine Practitioners
The world of holistic medicine is not as regulated as that of western medicine. Traditional medical doctors, including MDs and DOs, go through years of academic and practical training. They receive a state certification or license to practice medicine legally. However, many holistic medicine treatments can be administered without obtaining certification.
Ayurvedic Medicine and Energy (Reiki) Healing
Ayurvedic medicine and energy healing (or reiki) practices can be conducted without a license. But, if interested, individuals have the choice to get training at a college, university, or online platform. For example, the Southern California University of Health Sciences offers an Ayurvedic Professional Certification that prepares students for the National Ayurvedic Medical Association Certification Board exam.
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For other holistic treatments such as acupuncture, most states require the practitioner to complete a master’s degree from an accredited school and take the NCCAOM examination in acupuncture. Massage therapists may also be required to complete a state-approved massage therapy training program in certain U.S. states. After completing the program, there may also be an additional requirement to take a licensing exam.
Licensed Physicians and Practitioners
Many traditional doctors also offer holistic medical treatments at their clinics. This includes medical doctors (MDs), doctors of osteopathy (DOs), and homeopathic doctors. The American Holistic Health Association allows you to search for holistic medicine providers near you. The search results include details about practitioners near you, such as their specialties in holistic treatment and their credentials in holistic medicine.
Exceptions to Insurance Coverage
However, all is not lost, and coverage does exist sparingly. Some companies offer partial coverage for certain treatments. The NCCIH reports that:
- 91 percent of companies offer some coverage for chiropractic care (might include restrictions on number of total visits; patient usually incurs a copay of $20 to $30)
- 32 percent of companies cover acupuncture treatments (usually limited to 20 visits)
- 17 percent of companies offer coverage for massage therapy (usually only after prior physical therapy and medication)
- 11 percent of companies cover homeopathic treatment costs
- Coverage for hypnosis treatment is not guaranteed by most companies and may require physician authorization
What to Do if Insurance Doesn’t Cover Holistic Medicine
Like the majority of patients seeking holistic medicine treatments, if your insurance plan does not cover your treatment costs, you may try one of the following options.
HSA or FSA Options
You might consider using a Health Savings Account or a Flexible Spending Arrangement. Both these accounts offer a way for you to set aside pre-tax money from your salary and contribute towards your out-of-pocket medical costs. You should reach out to your employer and discuss the possibility of setting up such an account. Your employer may also contribute to your HSA or FSA fund. HSAs and FSAs are most common for those with high deductible plans. You may also need a physician’s approval to cover alternative treatment costs using one of these accounts.
Find more information about HSA options here!
Submit an Appeal
If your insurance company does not offer any coverage for your holistic medicine treatments, you might have the option to submit a claim for reconsideration. Working together with your healthcare provider, you may be able to build your case using expert opinion and supporting evidence about the effectiveness and safety of the treatment.
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Shop for Alternative Coverage
If you anticipate that holistic medicine treatments will be a big part of your healthcare needs, you might want to consider shopping specifically for plans that offer such coverage. You can look for new and alternative insurance plans during the open enrollment period and potentially switch plans.
Get the Treatment From a Licensed Practitioner
It is much harder to get your insurance company to cover your treatments if your service provider is not licensed or board certified. Search for doctors in your network who might offer holistic medical treatments to increase your chances of getting coverage.
Holistic Medicine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some commonly asked questions about holistic medicine.
Is holistic medicine expensive?
Holistic medicine treatments can incur significant costs for the patient. This is true primarily because such treatments usually require multiple visits over months. This means that the net cost across the entire treatment can be significant. Additionally, because of the lack of standardization in this industry, per visit costs vary drastically depending on the practitioner.
Is holistic medicine safe?
When practiced by a board-certified doctor. However, because of the lack of standardized care for such treatments, it can be tricky to find the right practitioner. Most holistic medications are available without prescriptions, making it difficult to restrict dosage and frequency of intake. It is best to discuss with your primary care physician when contemplating incorporating holistic medicine practices into your treatment.
Does holistic medicine work?
There are many benefits to getting certain holistic medicine treatments for your health issues. For instance, chiropractic care is effective in treating back pain, neck pain, and headaches. Many primary physicians even recommend chiropractic care to their patients. Most of the holistic practices are best when supplemented by your existing treatment plans.
Holistic medicine can be a great alternative or supplement to western medical treatments. Holistic treatment costs can vary anywhere from $15 to $600 depending on the treatment, the practitioner, and your healthcare coverage.
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Girisha is a second-year graduate student at Columbia University, pursuing a Master's in Public Health. She is excited to combine her passion for Public Health and writing with the hopes of delivering quality health information, one article at a time!