How to Afford Alternative Therapies for Chronic Illness

Patient Expert

Managing the symptoms of chronic illness involves a battery of techniques and many of us include alternative therapies in our treatment regimen. This can include acupuncture, chiropractic care, naturopathy, massage, and others. Unfortunately, they tend to be expensive. This post offers information on creative ways to access alternative therapies.

Insurance coverage

Do you have insurance? Your policy may cover certain alternative therapies. There are two ways of accessing an alternative form of treatment under your insurance. Some are covered outright and you can go ahead and make the appointment yourself. Others may require a doctor’s referral in order to be covered.

Complicating matters is the fact that insurance coverage for alternative therapies differs from state to state. To get more information on which kind of services are part of your policy, contact your insurance company. If you don’t yet have insurance, think about how important such treatments may be to how you manage your chronic illness. Then, when you go shopping for insurance, make sure you include a discussion with the sales agent about this topic.

Student clinics and sliding scales

When you are in the process of learning a profession, you need to practice. When I was doing a master’s in social work, I did student practicums, which was essentially working for free in a setting relevant to my specialization. Those who study to become a practitioner of an alternative or complementary therapy also need to practice.

Many schools have clinics where students treat clients while supervised by their teachers, who are practitioners. These types of clinics are often less expensive than a regular practitioner and may offer a sliding scale for payments where your fee is determined by your income. Some professionals already in practice may also offer sliding scales or payment plans. You won’t know until you ask!

Look for deals

Practitioners of alternative therapies are just like you and me. They need to make a living and build their business. To that end, they may offer deals on their services. For instance, when someone opens a new practice, they may include a deal as part of the grand opening. Some also offer coupons or deals associated with holidays or certain times of year, or a discount for new clients.

When you do your research to find a practitioner and think about which questions to ask, add one about discounts or special deals.

The workaround

Say you want to try acupuncture to deal with your pain or other symptoms, but your insurance doesn’t cover it (or maybe you are not insured). What can you do? Well, many other health practitioners are now learning acupuncture. This can include physical therapists, chiropractors, even physicians. And those are very likely covered by your policy.

Taking a creative approach to where you get your treatment can open up the possibilities. Just make sure that the person is legitimately qualified, not only as a medical doctor, physical therapist, and so on, but also in the particular alternative therapy that you want to try. A bit of poking around on Google will tell you what kind of qualifications are necessary in your area. This will enable you to ask the right questions before you become a pincushion or otherwise start an alternative regimen.

Gift-giving opportunities

Is there a gift-giving — or in your case, a gift-receiving — opportunity on the horizon? You don’t really need another useless kitchen tool, scarf, or box of chocolates. Instead, ask for contributions to what you’d like to try, be it acupuncture, float therapy, or a trip to a doctor of naturopathy. If your loved ones feel weird about just handing over cash, suggest a gift card from a credit card company. And then tell them that this will be a far more meaningful gift than anything else.

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Lene’s new book is Chronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness. She’s also the author of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, and the award-winning blog The Seated View_. _