Thursday, July 30, 2009

Should Alternative Therapies Be Part Of Healthcare Coverage?

A growing number of Senators think they should:
Senators Seek Coverage For Alternative Therapies, Boston Globe, July 24
"[Senator Tom] Harkin, is the cosponsor of an amendment that says healthcare plans will not be allowed to “discriminate’’ against any healthcare provider who has a license issued by a state."
Some bloggers don't think they should:
Senator Tom Harkin Pulls A Fast One: Alternative Medical Practitioners Will Be Part Of The "Healthcare Workforce" Under Health Care Reform, Respectful Insolence at ScienceBlogs
"[Senator Tom Harkin] wants to legitimize quackery by including it in any federal plan under the guise of "preventative care." " ... Be afraid. Be very afraid."
There are some great therapies that fall under Alternative Medicine. I think there should be coverage to see a dietitian, especially if you have a metabolic disorder (e.g. diabetes), coverage for exercise classes and gym memberships, coverage for stress management classes.

There are a number of herbal remedies that rise to the level of effectiveness, for example, Saw palmetto for urination difficulties related to enlarged prostate, and St. John's Wort for mild-to-moderate depression. Both of these are science-backed and endorsed by the government's National Institutes of Health (given a Grade of A = "Strong scientific evidence for this use"). It would be advantageous, certainly financially, if provision of information about these and other science-backed therapies were covered.

On the other hand, I'm not fond of homeopathy or reiki.

What do you think? Would you like to see insurance (public or private) provide some coverage for alternative therapies?
The photo demonstrates an alternative therapy for pregnancy discomfort: yoga. It has been shown to manage back discomfort, and improve circulation and posture.


caulfieldkid said...

I'm not opposed. I'm of the thought that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I like your gym and exercise class ideas.

I would like to see some "vegi vouchers" personally. Maybe make them apart of WIC instead of so many processed cereals.


Perovskia said...

I'm for it (though we have it here in Canada). I think those that are "afraid" of it are purely ignorant, in the full meaning of the word. They probably haven't done their research, or tried it and hear others' criticisms. Just sayin'.

Ronald said...

Like Homeopathy or Reiko or crystals? Boooooogus.

Jennywenny said...

I think its a shame that legitimate alternative therapies arent just classed in with regular therapy. If something is proven to work, it should be covered, and if it seems like 'quackery' it shouldnt. Seems pretty simple to me. I think the phrase 'alternative therapy' in itself causes prejudice.

Dieticians and RD's should be covered considering how messed up most peoples diets are.

annie5050 said...

yes,it should be covered.the APA and big pharma have been in charge forever and there are some great preventative programs that can be implemented such as for obesity, smoking etc.Plus, I have arthritis and a nice soak and massage helps a lot! plus if my doctor refers me to say a massage therapist, it should be covered.

Bix said...

At least Harkin's amendment says that an alternative therapy provider has to be licensed by their state. That's one vetting process anyway.

Anrosh said...

thank god ! this country has bought yoga into the mainstream.

virginia said...

i think NY is on its way to licensing yoga instructors.

yoga works.

Matt said...

Tough, timely question. The more therapies an insurance plan covers, the more expensive the insurance plan. But some have some real value. Perhaps similar to how chiropractic care is covered, they could be steered toward a percentage payment option. If I want chiro, I pay 50% and my insurance picks up 50%, up to $1K/person/year. That seems a reasonable way to provide some benefit and control costs.

Dr. Mel said...

Yes. And interestingly, most of these alternative therapies are far less expensive than the equivalent "science-approved" procedure/drug/etc. My health plan has paid far less for the chiropractic work I've had over the years to keep raging sciatica under control than it would have paid for one or a series of back operations. And I'm a lot better off. Fortunately I'm in a Blue Cross plan that does cover chiropractic.
As to other alternatives, holistic M.D.s (real M.D.s with extra training in certain alternative therapies) are a good compromise b/tw the wing-nut branch of alternative and more sensible aspects of it. E.g., Jefferson Hospital in Philly now has an entire new dept. devoted to alternative and complementary medicine.