Alternative Medical Bill

I recently read an article written by Nicholas Bakalar on the costs of alternative medical care.  Americans are currently spending $30.2 billion a year on alternative and complementary medicines and procedures, including $1.9 billion on children ages 4 to 17 years old.  Nothing is paid by insurance on any alternative medicine treatments, but rather is all paid out of the patient’s pocket.  

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, they maintain a continuing health survey of Americans that concludes 55.2 million adults and 4.4 million children received some type of alternative care.  About $14.7 billion, or almost half of the money, was spent visiting practitioners like acupuncturists, homeopaths, naturopaths, chelation therapists, mind body experts, energy healing specialists, hypnotists, massage therapists and traditional healers.

The natural product supplements cost $12.8 billion, excluding vitamin and mineral diet supplements, and $2.7 billion was paid for self-care, including expenses for books and educational materials on diet-based therapies, guided imagery, meditation, tai chi, movement therapies, biofeedback and other treatments.  This is quite a lot of money spent for care that the medical community deem worthless.

The $30.2 billion is only 1.1% of the nation’s total health care bill, which is $2.82 trillion.  However, the $12.8 billion spent on natural product supplements is 24% of the $54 billion spent out of pocket on prescription drugs, and $14.7 billion spent in visits to alternative practitioners and is nearly a third of the out-of-pocket expenditures for visits to conventional physicians.

The figures we see and compare are valuable data because it shows us just how much people value these alternative approaches, according to Richard L. Nahin, an epidemiologist.  Some people might use a therapy if it’s free but not if they have to pay for it.  When people are willing to pay for it out of their own pocket, they must really value and believe in alternative medicine.

Expenditures for a family increased with their income.  Those families with less than $25,000 a year spent an average of $435 a year on alternative care.  For lower income families, this only shows their trust and faith in taking advantage of alternative medicine, that could very well be a hardship for these families.  Their money would not be spent if some kind of results for their hard earned money weren’t realized.

I felt this pretty well summed up just how much of the population believes in this type of treatment, so there must be some validity in the overall success of alternative medicine. Insurance companies need to wake up!

–Dr Fredda Branyon