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Your Health Insurance Might Cover These Self-Care Practices

If you’ve always wanted to try acupuncture but were deterred by the price tag, you’re in luck: Insurance companies can and do cover this and other practices you may think of first as self-care. Some states mandate that insurers cover certain services. Other times, employers work with insurance providers to add complementary care to plans as a retention tool, says Michael Orefice, senior vice president of operations at insurance portal SmartFinancial.

If you’re not yet certain about a therapy but you’d like to know more, ask your doctor for their opinion on courses of outside treatment. Check your plan if you want to explore options beyond medication or surgeries — in many cases, you may need a PCP’s referral before your first appointment for coverage to be approved. 


Acupuncture

You’ve likely seen it in movies or TV as something “woo” or weird, but acupuncture is a centuries-old healing method originating from China. It operates on a theory of moving energy known as qi by stimulating specific pressure points, usually by inserting needles into the skin. 

Whatever you believe about the body, research suggests that acupuncture can help manage certain pain conditions, like fibromyalgia or headaches. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists acupuncture as a potential alternative to opioid medications for pain management. For this reason, some states, including Oregon, New Mexico and New Jersey, mandate that insurers cover acupuncture to help combat the opioid epidemic. 

Insurance coverage of acupuncture treatment has increased over the last decade. In 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that Medicare would cover some acupuncture treatment for chronic lower back pain. 

Chiropractic care

While chiropractors sound like medical doctors, they have very different training and certification. As doctors of chiropractic care, they typically focus on realigning parts of your spine with their hands, to help treat ailments like headaches, neck pain and other musculoskeletal issues. Many insurance companies cover short-term or acute chiropractic care that is necessary to fix chronic pain or specific injuries. 

Massage

 While massage may seem like a luxury experience confined to spa treatments and elite athletes, research shows that massages can help with issues ranging from hypertension, asthma and psychological conditions to Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer. Some private insurance plans cover massage therapy coverage if it’s deemed medically necessary to manage a condition, though Medicare does not.

Meditation apps

We’re all aware that stress can wreak havoc on our minds and our bodies. You’ve likely heard that mindfulness and meditation can help defuse some of that, and there’s plenty of research to back that up. Some companies might offer access to meditation apps like Calm or Headspace as an employee benefit. Certain insurance plans, such as Blue Shield of California, may also cover all or part of the app’s subscription fee. 

Gym memberships

Exercise is good for you; this is a well-known fact. It can help mitigate risks like type II diabetes, cancer and obesity. Insurance companies may not completely cover the cost of a gym membership, but some offer incentives. For example, Emblem provides discounts on monthly memberships at participating gyms.

Botox

We often think of Botox as simply cosmetic — a quick fix for fine lines or wrinkles. However, Botox can also treat ailments like migraines, an overactive bladder, severe jaw pain from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and other issues. Many insurance companies will cover Botox if it’s deemed medically necessary by a physician, though that does mean you can’t pass off a little cosmetic touch-up as health care. 


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The Paper Gown, a Zocdoc-powered blog, strives to tell stories that help patients feel informed, empowered and understood. Views and opinions expressed on The Paper Gown do not necessarily reflect those of Zocdoc, Inc. Learn more.