As medical costs continue to rise, more Americans are turning to often less expensive alternative therapies, including acupuncture.A year after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, many Americans are still struggling to get their insurance to cover basic medical treatments. A new report by Deloitte and Oxford Economics finds that consumers spent $363 billion dollars more for health-care goods and services in 2009 than official government statistics acknowledged -- a discrepancy of nearly 15%.

These out-of-pocket medical costs include "purchases that are outside of conventional therapies and treatments," as well as other products and services not covered by insurance programs and care for others. The finding joins a growing body of evidence that more Americans are exploring often less expensive alternatives to traditional Western medicine.

A 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which polled Americans about their use of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), estimated that 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture during the previous year. And in the five years leading up to the survey, the use of acupuncture -- the traditional Asian medical technique that involves the insertion of thin needles at skin-level, into key areas of the body -- had increased among U.S. adults by 0.3%, or about 1 million people.

Getting Coverage for Acupuncture

Acupuncture, once considered exotic in the U.S., has been around long enough to become federally regulated. Practitioners must use needles produced and manufactured according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards, which require needles to "be sterile, nontoxic, and labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only."

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments, including chronic pain, depression, menstrual irregularities, infertility and weight loss. Individual treatments at licensed acupuncturists can cost anywhere from $25 to $65 dollars or more per session.

While most employer-sponsored health plans cover may cover physicals, prescription drugs and mental health, only about half -- according to a 2004 Kaiser Family Foundation survey -- cover acupuncture, chiropractic care and other CAM treatments.

But insurance companies' reluctance to cover licensed acupuncture treatments may be changing. For the ninth straight year, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) is introducing legislation that would add acupuncture to the list of services covered by Medicare and Federal Employees Health Benefits Program participants.

"Even though the National Institutes of Health has found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for a range of serious diseases and conditions, 52 million Medicare beneficiaries and federal employees have no guaranteed access to the treatment," Mike Morosi, Hinchey's press secretary, writes in an email. "Congressman Hinchey will soon reintroduce the The Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act, which would ensure that those in need of care aren't forced to choose more expensive, invasive and risky treatments with a long list of side effects simply because acupuncture isn't covered."

Pinpointing the Problems

Colorado lawmakers also are working on a measure that would make it easier for licensed acupuncturists to get insurance reimbursements. Many patients supposedly covered for acupuncture treatments are still turned down by their insurers, says state Sen. Lucía Guzmán, one of the bill's sponsors, who adds that the bill uncovered a disconnect between some carriers and their bureaucracies.

"Some of the insurance companies I spoke to were sort of dumbfounded," she says. "They said 'we cover that.' But then when we got into it, we found that once something gets to the billing department end of it, then it's like, 'no, the reason we didn't pay for that was because that was not a licensed [acupuncturist]...they're not included on this list of licensed persons."

Acupuncture treatments can vary in length, taking anywhere from several weeks to several months. But even insurance companies that cover acupuncture usually limit the number of annual visits their patients can make.

"There are some that give you [a limit of] 20 treatments per year," says Parago Jones, clinic director at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Denver. "I think they're trying to placate a certain amount of their customers, giving a real basic [acupuncture coverage] -- like giving basic cable TV. It's kind of like, why even have it? I think an insurance carrier that only gives you 20 sessions per year isn't giving you much at all."

Jones recommends that consumers considering acupuncture educate themselves about their local practitioners and the available treatments. He also thinks there's a place in American health care for both Western medicine and legitimate, alternative treatments like acupuncture. "We're in that process of those two worlds slowly merging," he says, "and there's still a lot of trepidation -- at least from the Western side -- about what we do and what we know, and what's the best of this medicine."

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hcelkanich

I do not understand why MEDICARE and supplemental INSURANCE COMPANIES do not cover acupuncture? As I have evidenced it is preventative medicine, which would cost this country far less than many of the expensive medical treatments, and with fewer side effects. This type of treatment has been around for centuries and I have seen it work on patients. I feel it should be an alternative choice by a patient. Get with it AMERICA! Isn't this supposed to be "A FREE COUNTRY", let the patient make the choice! Have it governed by reputable practioners at major medical centers, and covered under our insurance carriers.. Thank you.

June 22 2013 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jack

The only one way to save on your health insurance is to use insurance comparison sites.If you try to search google you will find only big promises, but nothing more ...I didn't believe it, but I tried and I saved more than 30%.That is possible because once people register, they receive free quotes from many insurance companies, so they are able to compare and to save money.

The site I used is:

---CompareHealthInsurances.Info---

January 12 2012 at 4:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lllcln

health care cost should be frozen like the cost of living.then there would be a level playing field for everyone.in fact freeze the cost of everything.

April 05 2011 at 9:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rcole59000

the freaking NO PARTY the do nothing party only people dumber than the republican party are the people that put them back in office DUHHHHH

April 05 2011 at 4:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rcole59000

hey goatcars the real joke is republicare which is what republicans did for the 8 years while they controlled the house and senate and had a so called president geez what freaking idiots u people are

April 05 2011 at 4:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
JARED

BAN LOBBYING IS STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IT IS SELLING OUT AMERICA. BAN LOBBYING BECAUSE THAT IS THE TRUE FORM OF TERROSIM. TEH CMPANIES DO NOT OWN OUR GOVERNEMTN THE PEOPLE DO RIGHT NOW COMPANIES DO AND BIG INTERESTMONEY AND PEOPLE FROM THER COUNTRIES WHO ARE BUYING OUR GOVERNMENT, FACIST, THEY ARE TELLIGN OUR GOVRNEMTN TO BRAKE LAWS AND DO WHAT THEY SAY AND WE KNOW WHO THEY ARE. JUST LOOK AT THE BIGGEST LOBBYIN WASHINGTON

April 04 2011 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JARED

tHE PROBLEMS IS GREED AND THESE INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE PART OF THE MAIN PROBLEM, UNTIL THE GOVERNEMTN PUT A LAW IN WHERE NO GOUIGN IS ALLOWED IT WILL NEVER STOP SOON A BANDAID WILL BE A 100 DOLLARS, WHYT BECAUSE YOU HAVE THESE INSURNACE COMPANIES LOBBIES BUYING OUT OUR GOVERNMENT. ban all lobbying save america. The governemtn needs to set prices on everything what a band aid will cost to what a kidney will cost. no more gouging and these insurance companies need to be reulagted big time why should a insurance company ceo get 30 million a year in salery so he can goug us so he can get his cavier and his shopping at tiffineys

April 04 2011 at 11:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
goatcars2

What a joke Obama has become...This man doesn't have a clue.

April 04 2011 at 9:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
galbraith1065

Insurance and the government should not have to pay for chiropractors and acupuncture. Unproven voodoo medicine. And yes, I have tried them both. Waste of time and money.

April 04 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to galbraith1065's comment
ezspin42

Sorry to hear those didn't work. Chiropractic was a godsend to me. It does take a while to work and it won't work for everyone, but it straightened me out, and I looked as if my back was broken. Was almost bedridden. Still, Blue Cross cut me off after 20 or so sessions, the cheapskates.

April 05 2011 at 1:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hcelkanich

Sorry, I disagree. I have seen acupuncture work on a 90 yr. old woman who could find no other relief for her pain. Think again!!!
It is proven! Try it Mikey, you might like it!

June 22 2013 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hsainside

I am neither a Republican or Democrat, I am an American Citizen who graduated with an Economics Degree and works in NY. I follow the "money" and little else, the truth is that Healthcare Reform was and is a wet dream for Healthcare companies (specifically) Health Insurance Corporations (large ones). First lets follow the money trail and see where it takes us.. President Obama- Largest Financial Contributor (George Soros)- Soros made a huge financial gain after healthcare passed (as he owns a huge number of shares in the Largest Health Insurance Corp. in the Nation). Basically it is another example of the "Golden Rule" Those who have the Gold make the Rules, Americans need to wake up and not let the "Press" which is run by 7 Billionaires shape our minds and thoughts. Every major news station in America is owned by a Billionaire who wants to shape your "opinion". Lee Kuan Yew said it best, in today's Politics a great politician will not emerge because of the Press- it influences the thoughts of every American. Who will be our next President? Donald Trump, Mickey Mouse, or George Clooney? It really depends on who the Billionaires of the World want, little else.

April 04 2011 at 6:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hsainside's comment
chvemn

tjdwill00--- What you need to realize is there is no difference between political parties, they are both owned by international corporations, financial institutes and the military complex.

April 04 2011 at 10:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply