[MOL] Reimbursement for alternative treatments.... [03058] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] Reimbursement for alternative treatments....

Insurance plans and managed care organizations are beginning to offer reimbursement for alternative treatments. In fact, coverage of chiropractic treatment is mandated by law in at least 45 states, acupuncture in 7 states, and naturopathy in 2 states (16). Insurance plans which cover alternative health care often require physician referral for these services, highlighting the importance of physician awareness. One managed care company, Oxford Health Plans in Norwalk, Connecticut, is planning to cover alternative treatments, including some that use herbal remedies, basing their decision on a survey showing that 33% of its 1.5 million members had sought alternative treatment in the last two years. American Western Life Insurance Company based in San Mateo, California, has a "prevention plus" plan that covers herbal medicines. Industry analysts expect many other insurance plans to follow suit to compete for this untapped multibillion dollar market (16). Although reimbursement for herbal medicines is in its infancy, it is expected to grow tremendously along with the continued boom in sales of herbal products and alternative health care in general. In Germany, herbs prescribed by physicians are covered by insurance, whereas over-the-counter herbs are not; and German physicians are much more knowledgeable about their use (17). Physicians must become familiar with herbal medicine, as more insurance companies will expect their physicians to make referrals or suggest herbal products.