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Health law opens door to recognizing alternative medicine

Herbs

Complementary and alternative medicine -- a term that encompasses meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic care and homeopathic treatment, among other things -- has become increasingly popular, reports Kaiser Health News.  About four in 10 adults (and one in nine children) in the U.S. are using some form of alternative medicine, according to the National Institutes of Health.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, "the field could make even more headway in the mainstream health care system. That is, unless the fine print -- in state legislation and insurance plans -- falls short because of unclear language and insufficient oversight.

"One clause of the health law in particular -- Section 2706 -- is widely discussed in the alternative medicine community because it requires that insurance companies "shall not discriminate" against any health provider with a state-recognized license. That means a licensed chiropractor treating a patient for back pain, for instance, must be reimbursed the same as medical doctors. In addition, nods to alternative medicine are threaded through other parts of the law in sections on wellness, prevention and research.  

"Proving that alternative medicine has real, measurable benefits has been key to increasing its role in the system, said John Weeks, editor of the Integrator Blog, an online publication for the alternative medicine community. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, created by the health law, is funding studies on alternative medicine treatments to determine their effectiveness.

"But the challenges of introducing alternative care don’t stop with science.

"Because under the health care law each state defines its essential benefits plan -- what is covered by insurance -- somewhat differently, the language concerning alternative medicine has to be very specific in terms of who gets paid and for what kinds of treatment, said Deborah Senn, the former insurance commissioner in Washington and an advocate for alternative medicine coverage." Read the full story.

 

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