Complementary and Alternative Medicine Spending Now $34 Billion

With healthcare being so much in the news of late, a just released government report offers a distinctive picture of spending on complementary or alternative medicine (CAM).

A survey, completed in 2007, estimates that Americans spend $34 billion each year on either natural products or alternative treatments. Experts estimate this amount is about 11% of our total out-of-pocket spend on health care.

Spending on complementary and alternative medicines accounted for 1.5% of the total $2.2 trillion spent in the United States on health care.

No doubt you’ve heard about complementary and alternative medicines, or perhaps investigated them for yourself. The term covers a diverse group of therapies, and is often seeb as the last hope for a variety of conditions where conventional treatments fail, fall short or are not available.

Any treatment not generally considered part of western medicine, like herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic, energy work and acupuncture all fall into the category of either complementary or alternative medicine.

These spending figures are based on replies to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted back in 2007 by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CAM section in the survey was developed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) along with the NCHS.

The data collected was intended to give estimates of the costs of alternative therapies, the frequency of visits and how often people are buying complementary or alternative self-care therapies.

The report, released July 30, 2009, offers some compelling insights on American’s spending habits:

- In 2007, 38% of adults (about 4 in 10) and 12% of children under the age of 18 (about 1 in 9) had used some type of alternative medicine during the year.

- In 2007, conditions involving chronic pain (back, neck or joint) occupied nine of the top twenty conditions where alternative therapies might be used.

- In 2007, estimates show 354 million visits being made to CAM practitioners, such as acupuncturists, chiropractors and massage therapists at an estimated cost of almost $12 billion. Visits to acupuncturists increased over 1997 rates to 79 visits per 1,000 adults.

- In 2007, $22.0 billion was spent on treatments that did not involve a practitioner, including over-the-counter, self care herbal and other therapies (fish oil/omega 3, glucosamine, echinacea, flaxseed), classes or materials.

- In 2007, adults in the United States spent $121.92 per person for visits to CAM practitioners, and paid $29.37 out of pocket per visit. For most types of CAM therapies most adults spent less than $50 per visit, though at least 20% spend $75 a visit.

- In 2007, the largest single expenditure was in non-vitamin, non-mineral herbal supplements and other products (almost $15 billion) followed by practitioner visits ($12 billion), stretching and meditation-related classes like yoga, tai chi and qigong ($4 billion), homeopathic medicines ($2.9 billion) and relaxation techniques ($0.2 billion).

“With so many Americans using and spending money on CAM therapies, it is extremely important to know whether the products and practices they use are safe and effective,” points out Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., Director of NCCAM.

“This underscores the importance of conducting rigorous research and providing evidence-based information on CAM so that health care providers and the public can make well-informed decisions.”

Both conventional and CAM Practitioners stress that the two

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Unemployment Health Insurance Alternatives – COBRA and Beyond

What Is COBRA?

COBRA is NOT health insurance. It is, rather, a federal law that helps some terminated employees stay in their group plan for several months. It can be critically important for some families, and can work out well if the insured worker can find another job with group insurance before the benefits run out.

However, this does not work out for everybody. Here are some reasons why COBRA is not an unemployment medical plan choice for everybody.

Not all companies are under this mandate. Some companies never had a group plan in the first place. Others are too small to fall under the rules. So terminated employees from these companies will not have his option for a major medical plan. Some unemployed people do not have this option at all.
When a terminated employee accepts an extension of their group medical plan under COBRA rules, they will have to pay for it. In many cases, they not only have to pay the premium they paid before, but they will also have to pay the old employer contribution. Many terminated employees are shocked when they see that their premium will double or triple because the old company is not contributing any longer. So sometimes the premiums are just too expensive for unemployed people to pay!
What are some unemployment health insurance alternatives?
Unemployed people do have some alternatives. These alternatives can also be considered by people who are working, but have jobs or self-employment that does not have group medical benefits.

Individual Health Insurance Policies – Sometimes, if a family is fairly young and healthy, a private plan may actually be a less expensive way to find coverage. Policies are individually underwritten by health insurers, and they may offer low rates to a fairly healthy family.

Before you switch from group to individual major medical, make sure you understand the difference between the old and new policies. There are some circumstances, as with some preexisting conditions or pregnancy, that a private plan will not be a good alternative.

High Risk Health Plans – Every US state has some plan or pool for people with pre-existing conditions. There are qualification rules, possible waiting periods, and sometimes there are high premiums though. Federal health reform is starting to make this easier and less expensive to obtain, but those changes are still being implemented. You should be able to find out more by searching for the high risk health plan in your state. New Jersey has a very different plan than Texas has, for example, so it is important to understand the local rules.

Low Income Health Plans – If you have a very low income, you may be able to get the help you need from a private, federal, state, or county health program. Medicaid is the federal major medical plan for very low income people with few assets. CHIPS covers children from low to moderate income families. Many counties also have health systems with sliding scales fees. Private foundations may offer financial aid for specific health conditions.

You can find out more about your options by looking for state or county resources. One good website is It has a handy zip code search for help in your area.

How To Find Health Insurance Choices Where You Live

You can find many zip code health insurance quote forms. They will give you competitive prices on major medical insurance, and will also give you contact information for local agents who should know the ropes, as they say, in your city or town.

Do You Need Unemployment Health Insurance?

If you need a major medical plan because your company does not offer one, or because you are out of work, visit us for unemployment health insurance alternatives [

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