Massage therapy is accepted as a legitimate medical service by many health insurance plans. However, patients must be very careful to ensure that they are seeing the right kind of provider, according to massage therapist Andrew Wolfe.
Wolfe cautions that medical massage therapy is a specialty patients will not find at a spa. To be covered by insurance, medical massage therapy must be prescribed by a patient’s primary care physician and provided by a therapist who specializes in providing it (Wolfe, 2006).
Back in 2006, Cathy Wong, ND, a naturopathic physician, surveyed 18 major insurance providers, including Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, and Prudential. Dr. Wong found that 14 covered about one-third of standard alternative therapies. Massage therapy, along with chiropractic care and acupuncture, is among one of the most commonly covered alternative therapies (Wong, 2006).
Wong writes that coverage will vary by state and recommends checking with the insurance company to see what is covered and how much. Many plans limit the amount they will pay or the number of visits covered. (Wong, 2006)
Some employers offer special riders for alternative therapies. These riders often allow for treatment through a network that provides discounts for massage therapy and other alternative treatments. Aetna is one insurer that recently began offering access to an alternative therapy network through a rider.
Medicare does not specifically cover massage therapy unless it is medically necessary and part of a physical therapy regimen. The Veterans Administration does not cover massage therapy. Recent VA research indicates the agency is not likely to cover it in the near-future.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institutes of Health, says that about one-third of all adults under age 65 use a form of CAM. Some of their CAM out-of-pocket costs, including massage therapy, may be tax-deductible. In addition, many consumers pay for CAM through flexible spending accounts offered by employers, or less often, through health savings accounts established by persons with high-deductible plans.
Several Anthem Education locations offer diplomas and associate degrees in massage therapy. To learn more, call 1.866.502.2627 or visit our Web site.
Adams, Elizabeth. “Complementary and Alternative Therapies—Effectiveness of Energy Therapies.” Veterans Health Administration Office of Patient Care Services, Technology Assessment Program. December 2010. Web. 6 July 2011.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Wolfe, Andrew. “Medical Massage Therapy and Insurance Coverage.” SelfGrowth. SelfGrowth.com, n.d. 28 September 2010.
Wong, Cathy. “12 Common Questions About Insurance and Complimentary/Alternative Medicine.” About.com, 2006. 28 September 2010.