Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Wisdom Wednesday: Alternative Medicine Taking Hold Among Americans
Americans spend a good chunk of their health care dollars on alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic care and natural supplements, a new government report shows.
In fact, they paid more than $30 billion out of pocket in 2012 on chiropractors and other complementary health practitioners, as well as supplements and other forms of alternative medicine.
“Substantial numbers of Americans spent billions of dollars out-of-pocket on these approaches – an indication that users believe enough in the value of these approaches to pay for them,” said study co-author Richard Nahin. He is lead epidemiologist at the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Overall, spending on complementary medicine amounted to just over 9% of out-of-pocket health care expenditures and about 1% of all money spent on health care in the United States, the researchers found.
Even people with lower incomes spend quite a bit on complementary medicine, according to the report published June 22 in the National Health Statistics Reports.
Nahin and his colleagues found that families making less than $25,000 a year spent, on average, $314 out-of-pocket on visits to complementary health practitioners in 2012, and an average of $389 on natural supplements.
According to Stephanie Romanoff, communications director for the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, consumer demand for complementary medicine has caused more researchers to look into how well these approaches work, which in turn has provided consumers with better information.
“Integrative medicine is not going to have the same funding as pharmaceuticals do, but because of the consumer demand and increased interest from academia and our national government in integrative medicine and health, there has been an increase in research,” Romanoff said. “And increasingly, there’s more research validating the value of these approaches.”
It is interesting to note the comparisons with the pharmaceutical industry. We don’t get the funding and only account for 1% of the market, but Big Pharm is worried about us. The inroads we have made have been in the face of great opposition.
As noted consumer demand has driven most of the advances but interest from the world of academia is building despite the lack of funding. The interest from national government is based solely on the cost effective nature of alternative health care.
Insurance coverage is still not existent. Although I am licensed to order any and all medical testing, insurance generally will not cover the cost. This is why complementary medicine accounts for 9% of out-of-pocket expenses but only 1% of total health care costs.
The Bottom Line:
The public is beginning to understand the value of alternative health care. Unfortunately, the health care industry will resist any movement away from their model. Change is coming, but it will be slow.