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Does Your Health Insurance Cover Supplements?

A growing body of scientific evidence is demonstrating the effectiveness of many alternative medicine practices and supplements. If you are interested in exploring complementary or alternative medicine it is imperative that you contact your health insurance provider to see if it is covered by your policy. Nutritional approaches to health, such as resveratrol supplements, are being embraced by more and more insurance companies, but you have to check first.

A 2006 survey of major insurers and HMO’s found that 14 of them covered at least 11 of 34 alternative treatments. The most commonly covered therapies are chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine. Meditation, stress-management, herbal remedies, including resveratrol capsules, and homeopathy are increasingly being covered by insurers as well.

Even though your insurance company may cover some forms of alternative medicine, it doesn’t mean you will not have to pay anything. In fact, for most of the cases where supplements and other alternative therapies are covered, you will still pay on a discounted fee-for-service basis, or will only be covered for a small number of sessions. Because of these limitations, many individuals opt to pay for alternative therapies themselves.

One way to find out if a specific practice is covered by your health insurance is to contact the national professional association for that type of therapy. For example, the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine maintains a list of insurers that provide coverage and what the reimbursement may be.

Before seeking alternative treatments it is always a good idea to check with your insurance company to see what is covered. Does the treatment need to be pre-authorized or pre-approved? Do you need a referral from your physician? Is there a co-payment? These are just some of the questions you will want to ask when talking to your carrier.

If you do decide to pay out of pocket from the procedure or health supplement, make sure you fully understand the costs involved. What is the recommended course of treatment? If the procedure will take dozens of sessions to complete, the costs can mount quickly. Ask if there is a trail period available to see if the therapy works for you before committing to a full course.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, maintained by the National Institutes of Health, is an excellent resource for getting more information about an alternative therapy. They even have scientific and medical literature on a range of alternative medicines, in case your health insurer asks for evidence about the efficacy of your treatment.

If your health insurance company declines your claim for coverage of an alternative medicine, you always have the ability to appeal that decision. Follow your insurer’s appeal procedure and talk to your primary health care provider to see if there is anything they can do to help your case.

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