Some Health Plans Begin To Cover Complementary Care

Ed. Note: The following story is a press release from American Specialty Health.

April 12, 2005

American Specialty Health (ASH), the nation's leading complementary health care organization, is debuting new health plan coverages here that allow Arkansas employers to offer insurance benefits for complementary health care. This makes popular treatments such as chiropractic/manual manipulation, acupuncture, massage therapy, dietetic counseling, and vitamins and minerals more accessible and affordable for employees.

Employers with 51 or more employees are able to purchase these benefits as a supplemental group benefit rider, similar to purchasing vision, dental, or behavioral health coverage. The benefits are offered by American Specialty Health Insurance Company (ASH Insurance), a subsidiary of ASH, and are available for both in-state and out-of-state employees.

Employers are increasingly eager to offer complementary health care coverage because of growing evidence that it can help reduce employee medical utilization as well as the overall costs of health care, according to George DeVries, president and chief executive officer of ASH. In a recent study in the 'Archives of Internal Medicine,' employees with chiropractic insurance coverage had 41 percent fewer hospitalizations for back pain than employees without chiropractic coverage. They also had 32 percent fewer back surgeries and significantly lower utilization rates for CT/MRI scans and X-rays than employees without chiropractic insurance.

Employers also are interested because of employee demand for complementary health services. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 36 percent of consumers use some sort of "complementary and alternative" therapy.

"With the growing consumer demand for complementary health care and employers' increasing needs for cost-effective health coverages, our company is stepping in to meet a need that is often unfulfilled by mainstream insurers," said DeVries. "As a result, coverage is becoming easier for employees to get." According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, employees covered by acupuncture health benefits increased from 33 percent in 2002 to 47 percent in 2004, while employees with chiropractic coverage increased from 79 percent of workers in 2002 to 84 percent in 2004.

Cindy Beemer, DC, a Springdale-based chiropractor, believes the availability of complementary health care coverage is becoming increasingly important to patients because it offers a broader choice of wellness and treatment options.

"Many patients today are sophisticated users of health care services," said Dr. Beemer. "They know that complementary care providers will approach their treatment in a different way than traditional providers, and they want the option to make that kind of choice. This is especially important for patients who have a history of chronic health conditions or chronic pain that has not been resolved through traditional medicine or has not been improved by taking prescription drugs."

Employees covered by ASH Insurance can access a state network of more than 425 contracted providers. Insureds who travel also have access to a national provider network of more than 22,000 contracted acupuncturists, chiropractors, dietitians, massage therapists, medical doctors, and osteopathic physicians. In many cases, ASH Insurance may also cover employees residing in other states.

American Specialty Health, Incorporated is the nation's leading specialty benefits organization for complementary health care, providing health benefits, and health education and affinity network programs to employer groups and trust funds, health plans, and insurance carriers nationwide. Based in San Diego, ASH has more than 500 employees and more than 12 million members in benefit programs nationwide. Its subsidiary, American Specialty Health Insurance Company, is currently licensed or admitted as an insurer in 42 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit ASHCompanies.com or call (800) 848-3555.