Patients frustrated over lack of insurance coverage for holistic - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Patients frustrated over lack of insurance coverage for holistic procedures

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Dr. Stephen Zhao treats Marie Morgan with acupuncture. Source: WBRC video Dr. Stephen Zhao treats Marie Morgan with acupuncture. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

There are a lot of complaints about health insurance including insufficient coverage of holistic medicine or alternative treatments.

Those include treatments like acupuncture and massage therapy.

Marie Morgan, suffers from fibromyalgia after being involved in two car accidents, swears by acupuncture. She has been a patient of acupuncturist Dr. Stephen Zhao for two months.

"It is chronic pain. You are in chronic pain. There's no fix for it. The only fix I have found is here," said Morgan.

With each visit Morgan lies down and is stuck with small needles. It's a relief she will gladly pay for but hates that it has to be out of her own pocket.

"If an insurance company says that you can go to this doctor and that doctor then why don't they allow this? If this is going to help me and not take all the pharmaceutical manmade drugs then why isn't this allowed," she said.

Zhao has more than 30 years of acupuncture experience and says it's frustrating to see patients come and go because they can't pay for his services.

"You want to help people and a lot of people they can't afford it. You know, people need more treatment but their insurance don't cover it," Zhao said.

And his practice isn't the only one. Jean Scott Lowe practices holistic techniques and said her patients just can't afford regular visits.

"I would say at least 70 percent of the people that call me do not make an appointment because I'm not covered my health insurance," said Lowe.

"I would love to blame the [Affordable Healthcare Act] for everything that's going on but to be fair it's a process of they're the ones making the rules but the carrier has to respond to that," said health insurance expert Gene Ramsey.

Ramsey said if your plan didn't offer holistic coverage prior to the Affordable Care Act don't automatically expect that it would with the changes made by the ACA.

As plans changed he said so did some people's coverage.

"If you're going to point at the ACA was it because you made a decision to take your plan that you had which was a little richer and move it down because now it needed to be more affordable? Did you check out to make sure your doctor would be in that new plan," said Ramsey.

BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama is the only insurance company offered in 64 of the 67 counties. We reached out to them for more information on holistic coverage.

We were sent this statement:

"Our company's goal is to provide our members access to quality and affordable healthcare. Coverage for our members will continue to be based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence and recognized standards of medical practice accepted by the organized medical community. Currently, holistic medicine is considered "non-traditional" treatment that is very broad and currently does not have a defined criteria. There are other treatment options available to our members, and we recommend they discuss those alternatives with their physician."

Humana insurance is an option for those in in Jefferson, Shelby and Madison counties. We called Humana and we were directed to a company called America's Health Insurance Plans. They represent health plans rather than offer health insurance coverage.

A representative said some holistic practices like acupuncture and massages through physical therapy are offered but customers have to check with their insurance company.

But that information doesn't help people like Morgan.

"I have my insurance and I have my husband's insurance. I'm double covered but it still doesn't cover this," she said.

Ramsey said the ACA is not perfect and he can see changes being made in the future. In the meantime, he highly recommends looking at what holistic procedures and doctors your plan covers.

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