Insurance Reimbursement for Complementary Healthcare Services

James Whedon, Tor D Tosteson, Anupama Kizhakkeveettil, Melissa Nagare Kimura
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice, and Policy 2017, 23 (4): 264-267

INTRODUCTION: Insurance reimbursement for clinical services provided by complementary healthcare professionals in the United States likely differs by provider specialty. It is hypothesized that a lower likelihood of insurance reimbursement demonstrates that complementary healthcare services are not utilized to an optimal level and are not financially accessible to all who may need or want these services. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the likelihood of insurance reimbursement for complementary healthcare services compared with other complementary services and with conventional primary care medical services in New Hampshire.

METHODS: The authors studied health claims for services provided in a nonemergent outpatient setting in New Hampshire in 2014. The study population consisted of New Hampshire residents aged 18-99 years with claims for selected clinical services commonly provided by complementary healthcare providers. The authors modeled the proportion of reimbursed claims by specialty of complementary healthcare service provider, compared with the reimbursement rate for primary care physicians' claims. The authors modeled first for the proportion of reimbursement for any selected clinical service, next for any evaluation and management (E&M) service, and finally for the most commonly used E&M procedure code, current procedural terminology (CPT) 99213 (reevaluation of established patient).

RESULTS: Compared with primary care physicians, the likelihood of reimbursement for any service was 69% lower for acupuncturists, 71% lower for doctors of chiropractic medicine, and 62% lower for doctors of naturopathic medicine. For any E&M service, likelihood of reimbursement was 69% lower for acupuncturists, 78% lower for doctors of chiropractic medicine, and 60% lower for doctors of naturopathic medicine. With further restriction to CPT 99213 only, likelihood of reimbursement was 34% lower for acupuncturists, 77% lower for doctors of chiropractic medicine, and 60% lower for doctors of naturopathic medicine.

CONCLUSIONS: In New Hampshire, the likelihood of health insurance reimbursement for certain clinical services differs significantly by provider specialty. More research is needed to evaluate the extent and cause of such differences and the effect of such differences on the utilization of complementary healthcare services in the United States.


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