As the government eyes healthcare reform to address today’s problems in coverage and expenses, there’s a group of lobbyists representing an unusual set of clients who want their services covered in insurance plans. It seems that acupuncturists, chiropractors, homeopaths and even faith healers want your visits to be covered so they can attract more patients to their alternative practices. Today, if you want to see an alternative medicine practitioner, you have to pay out of your pocket, but if your insurance company will subsidize your visit, odds are you may be more willing to come and see them. Whatever per service revenue they lose in negotiations, they’ll gain in volume. However, their case might be lost before it’s even considered in a Congressional hearing.
Insurance companies base their coverage on sets of guidelines that are created by physicians and reviewed for anything questionable or objectionable. Before the companies are willing to pick up their part of the tab for a new treatment, they want to know that it works, that it will improve the quality of life and that it makes sense. For them to do anything else is just gambling with their money and hence, they try to rely on evidence-based medicine as much as they possibly can. How can their guidelines track something as obscure as spiritual or holistic health? And why should they cover something that scientists and doctors are sure doesn’t work past the placebo effect? We’re talking about companies that will think twice about giving you a new kidney. Do any of the alternative medicine advocates really think the same companies will want to cover New Age medicine?
The same insurance companies have their own powerful lobbies and armies of political allies who can throw a lot more money and a lot more weight around Washington DC. Currently, alternative medicine proponents have only one serious supporter, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). And while they might sway some congressmen and women with a passionate presentation or two, representatives of insurance companies will be ready to line up expert after expert who will truthfully tell them there’s no solid proof that alternative medicine is on par with conventional medical practices and that faith healing is a religious tenet rather than a valid practice that has any place in a hospital. Why then should the government ask insurance companies to cover these ideas? And what politician would want the negative press that would come with advocating something like this?