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Consumer Financial Issues in Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Detailed information on paying for alternative treatments, alternative remedies for mental health conditions.

Detailed information on paying for alternative treatments, alternative remedies for mental health conditions.

On this page

  1. What is CAM?
  2. How do patients pay for CAM treatments delivered by a practitioner?
  3. How can I find out if there are any laws in my state about insurance coverage of a CAM modality (treatment) that I am interested in?
  4. I have health insurance. If I am interested in obtaining treatment from a CAM practitioner, what financial questions should I ask?
  5. What financial questions should I ask the practitioner?
  6. What about CAM insurance coverage that may be offered through employers?
  7. Does NCCAM have a list of insurance companies that cover CAM?
  8. My insurer has asked me for evidence, from scientific and medical literature, about the use of a CAM treatment. Can NCCAM provide this information?
  9. My insurance company has denied my claim for CAM treatment. Is there anything I can do?
  10. Are there laws to help me keep my health insurance if I lose or change jobs? Do these laws apply to CAM treatments?
  11. What are tax-exempt accounts for medical expenses? How might they help me?
  12. Does the Federal Government have resources that might help me financially with my health-related expenses?
  13. Are CAM services deductible on my income tax?
  14. Can you suggest any other resources?
  15. Resources

Consumers of health care, including complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), often have questions about the financial aspects of obtaining treatment. This fact sheet addresses a number of frequently asked questions about consumer financial issues in CAM and includes resources for further information.


 

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1. What is CAM?

CAM, as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered part of conventional medicine. ¹Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. To find out more about these terms, consult the NCCAM fact sheet "What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?" (See "Resources.")

NCCAM is the Federal Government's lead agency for research on CAM. NCCAM is dedicated to exploring CAM healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals.

¹Conventional medicine is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Other terms for conventional medicine include allopathy; Western, mainstream, orthodox, and regular medicine; and biomedicine. Some conventional medical practitioners are also practitioners of CAM.

2. How do patients pay for CAM treatments delivered by a practitioner?

In CAM, as in conventional medicine, there are two primary ways people pay for care.

  • Out-of-pocket payment. Most consumers must pay for CAM practitioner services and CAM therapeutic products themselves.

  • Insurance. Some health plans offer some coverage of CAM. Such coverage tends to be very limited, however, and varies considerably from state to state.

Last Updated: 08 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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