Alternative Medicine

Making Alternative Medicine Affordable

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By Kate Wharmby Seldman
Alternative medicine is becoming more and more popular in the US. Insurance may cover some treatments – some insurance plans include chiropractic and acupuncture benefits – but for supplements, herbal medicines, or lesser-known alternative treatments, you may end up spending a great deal of your own money.

There are several ways to manage the costs of alternative treatments. The New York Times recently published an article detailing ways of paying less for natural and holistic medicine. The first place to look is your insurance company. If you can get your primary care physician (PCP) to prescribe you alternative treatments for a condition you’ve already been diagnosed with – the New York Times article gives the example of using fish oil capsules to relieve arthritis pain – you may be able to get your insurance to cover it. In other cases, you might need your doctor to call your insurance company and preauthorize certain alternative medical treatments.

If your claim is rejected, keep trying – you may need to frame a treatment in a different way and get your doctor to help you do so, or you might just need to refile the claim a second or third time before it’s approved. You can also find an alternative medical practitioner who belongs to a medical group that includes your primary care physician, and have your PCP prescribe you some of the treatments or medications the alternative practitioner recommends.

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Get your hospital or clinic involved in the process, and they might be able to negotiate a lower payment for you. Some hospitals and clinics have patient advocates who can assist you with preauthorizations, claims and appeals. Make sure your insurance company speaks to the hospital or clinic advocate.

There are other ways to save money on complementary medicine: try not to pay for visits in advance, in case you decide a certain treatment isn’t working for you. For example, don’t sign up for 10 chiropractic sessions – try one or two before you make a bigger commitment.

Talk to your doctor about which brands of herbal supplements he or she recommends. Don’t buy these supplements at smaller stores or boutique supermarkets – buy in bulk or online for the best prices. Another money-saving tip: don’t buy supplements from your doctor, as these prices are likely to be the highest of all.

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