Skip to content

Health & Balance

Font Size
A
A
A

Providing the Alternative

Complementary Coverage?

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Your cousin tells you acupuncture has really helped her migraines. Your sister swears by chiropractic for her stiff neck. You wouldn't mind exploring some alternative therapies for a few of your own ailments, but you're not crazy about the idea of paying for the treatments. Well, you might not have to. Traditional insurance carriers are realizing that if they want to keep their customers satisfied, they need to jump on the CAM (complementary/alternative medicine) bandwagon themselves.

A 1998 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the use of alternative therapies in the U.S. is on the rise. According to the report, 42% of adults used at least one form of alternative medicine or therapy in 1997, spending more than $33 billion.

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

How to Breathe Better

When heart specialist John M. Kennedy, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, stands at the scrub sink before an operation, he breathes deeply with  seven-count exhales, visualizing how he wants the procedure to go. "Athletes use these techniques to perform under pressure, but we can all call on them in our regular lives," Dr. Kennedy says. It starts with knowing what kind of breathing works best for the challenge you're facing. Here's what the latest research shows. REV UP If...

Read the How to Breathe Better article > >

"We're always looking for the quick fix," says Rick Gallion, director of complementary and alternative medicine for Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina (BCBSSC). "We need to rethink how we can help the general public avoid disease."

A self-confessed "health nut," Gallion oversees BCBSSC's Natural Blue program. Begun in January 1999, Natural Blue offers policyholders discount fees for chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage services provided by a network of BCBSSC-approved providers.

"We emphasize quality providers," says Gallion. "There is a stringent qualifying process for the public's protection."

Because Gallion believes that educating -- as well as protecting -- the public is paramount, BSBSSC also includes information on complementary and alternative medicine on its web site -- www.southcarolinablues.com -- where you can click on "natural blue" and submit questions, as well as search for information on a variety of CAM topics.

Since there are no claims to file with Natural Blue, Gallion has no data on just how many people have taken advantage of the program. There has been a lot of positive feedback, however, he says, and in the last three months, the Natural Blue web site has received 27,000 visitors.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) is another insurance carrier seeking to capitalize on its subscribers' interest in alternative therapies. Alt Med Blue, a comprehensive alternative medicine discount program, was begun in April 2000. North Carolina's program is more extensive than South Carolina's Natural Blue -- with discounts offered not only on acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage, but also on yoga, stress management, personal trainers, fitness centers, spas, homeopathy, naturopathy, and nutrition counseling.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
 
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
 
Take your medication
Slideshow
highlighted colon
Article
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Slideshow
 
Woman worn out on couch
Article
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
Article
laughing family
Quiz