Are Alternative Health Benefits the Answer?

Many employers are concerned about the affordability of new healthcare laws going into effect in 2013. In searching for an answer, some advisers have advocated alternative health benefits; anything from providing treadmill desks to initiating wellness programs has been discussed. What exactly are the benefits of alternative health options? Can they really reduce cost? Here are two great articles from CFO.com that help answer these questions.

A tug of war between conventional medicine and CAM medicine — much of which is aimed at preventing or treating illness and injury without drugs or invasive approaches — has been going on for decades. While CAM continues to grow in popularity among individuals, the corporate mainstream remains committed to covering only what’s been proven by evidence obtained through large, multiple, and rigorous clinical trials.
CFO.com for more

Referring to the company’s CAM coverage list (left), Pelletier says, “At least half if not three-quarters of these are in the ‘caveat emptor’ category. Many of them have no evidence base whatsoever. That doesn’t mean they won’t work for some individual with an unusual response to it. But that doesn’t mean they’re replicable.”From the list, only acupuncture, bio-identical hormone therapy, and chelation (for heavy-metal toxicity, not some of the other conditions it’s sometimes used for) are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Practitioners don’t need FDA approval to provide the others because they are not even recognized as therapeutic interventions, says Pelletier. Only a few, like acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnotherapy (if prescribed by a psychologist or psychiatrist), and therapeutic massage, are covered by more than the rare health plan.Pelletier’s assessment is backed up by Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which represents more than 350 large-employer members on national health-policy issues. “For most of these things, I’ve never heard of a company that covers them,” she says. “For the most part they are not medically necessary. They’re more like perks, like bringing your pet to work. [Parker Hannifin] is wasting its money unless it’s clear in its own mind that it’s getting better talent and retaining it by doing this.”Not surprisingly, the health-insurance industry is also on the opposing side. “Typically what drives coverage is whether there is a scientific evidence base that tells us something is safe, effective, and in some cases more effective than an alternative,” says Susan Pisano, vice president of communications for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a major lobbying organization. “And then an employer has to be willing to fund it.”CFO.com for more

 

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About thebenefitblog

Eric is a Producer at Lockton Insurance Brokers, Inc., the world’s largest privately held commercial broker. Eric has over 23 years of experience in the insurance industry and has spent the last 11 years with Lockton. Eric specializes in Health & Welfare Benefits, Retirement Planning, and Executive Benefits. Eric's clients utilize his expertise in the areas of Plan Due Diligence, Transaction Structure, Fiduciary Oversight, Investment Design, Compliance and Vendor negotiation to improve the operational & financial outcome for each client. The Benefit Blog is a place to share that expertise and industry news.
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