Does My Insurance Cover Acupuncture?

 

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It’s a question I hear all the time and most people assume they don’t have coverage for acupuncture. Actually a significant number of people do have some benefit. In Hawaii acupuncture coverage is not a part of the Essential Health Benefits, the mandatory set of health benefits each insurance plan needs to provide under the Affordable Care Act, yet. It is part of the Essential Health Benefits in California, Alaska, New Mexico, Maryland and Washington. So, hopefully, it’s just a matter of time![1]

Until then quite a few insurance plans have chosen to cover acupuncture just because it’s awesome. Remember that these benefits renew annually so now is a good time to take advantage of your plan!  Here’s the breakdown:

 

Insurance Company Benefit Copay Important to know
HMSA and Kaiser Between 12-20 visits per calendar year*^ $10-20 ^Most plans do not have any coverage including those for HSTA, Quest, and HGEA. For those that do, this acupuncture benefit is provided through ASH Networks.
UHA $500 benefit per calendar year*^ $10 ^Combined benefit between acupuncture and chiropractic
HMAA 20 visits per year*^ $7-15 ^All plans provide coverage except the Comprehensive Basic
HMA, Family Health Hawaii Varies Varies
Worker’s Compensation Referral from Primary Care Provider (PCP) needed for approval from the insurance adjuster. Usually 10-15 visits per treatment plan none Can continue with more referrals
Auto PIP Optional complimentary care benefit of 30 visits shared between acupuncture and chiropractic None Make sure you have selected the Alternative Care option for this benefit.

 

*Always call your insurance company to verify the specifics of your coverage. Coverage is generally for musculoskeletal pain conditions only.

Some out-of state companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna may offer coverage but finding an in-network provider in Hawaii may be difficult. Keep in mind acupuncture may also be used as a medical expense in a Flex spending account, but not herbal medicine.

Here are some local companies/unions that offer their employees an acupuncture benefit:

Hawaiian Airlines

Oceanic Time Warner Cable

Hawaii Electrician’s Health and Welfare Fund

CVS Caremark

AFL Hotel & Restaurant Workers Health and Welfare Trust Fund

Hawaii Teamsters Health & Welfare trust Fund PPO plan

Hawaii Teamsters Health & Welfare trust Fund HMO plan (yellow card Member ID cards)

UFCW – Hawaii Food Employers Health & Welfare Trust Fund

Times Supermarket

ILWU Local Health & Welfare Trust Fund (HOTEL)

ILWU Local Health & Welfare Trust Fund GENERAL (light Blue Member ID cards)

Island Air

Insurance coverage for acupuncture in Hawaii is increasing, albeit slowly. Don’t wait for your carrier to offer coverage before getting acupuncture. Most acupuncturists charge between $50-100 per treatment and many offer discounted package rates, senior rates or sliding scale. Remember that acupuncture stimulates your body to heal itself and it’s always a good idea to invest in your health!

[1] http://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/issue_briefs/2014/rwjf416179

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5 Chinese Herbal Remedies That Should Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

We all have the basic medicines in our cabinet – Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, cough syrup, antibiotic ointment, allergy meds, etc. But is there anything in there for a sore throat? Ok, you can numb it with Ibuprofen but that only masks the pain while the virus wages an inevitable full-blown attack. Ugh. What about when you have the stomach flu? Suffer, wait it out, take the pink stuff until you get back to normal?

Luckily, the Chinese have got some of these things figured out better than we do. Most of their remedies actually fix the problem instead of masking symptoms. Here are some essential herbal medicines every Chinese mom has in her medicine cabinet.

These five herbal medicines are relatively easy to obtain in the US, just call me and swing by the clinic to pick some up, or visit your local health food store. I must stress that I recommend buying only the Plum Flower brand for the first three. These are classic formulas that are made by a variety of companies. Plum Flower has a solid reputation for screening the herbs for toxins of all sorts like heavy metals, molds and fungi, pesticides, etc. See their website for full safety info mayway.com. Mayway (Plum Flower) has not paid me for any recommendation of their product, I just prefer this brand for their safety.

On to the good stuff.  Here is an explanation of these wonderful remedies along with indication and dosages. But before trying anything READ THE CAUTIONS SECTION BELOW. And if in doubt, contact your local herbalist (that’s me) and I’ll answer your questions.

Yin Chiao

Yin Chiao San 

Indication: sore throat, take first sign of viral attack

Dosage: 5 tablets every 2-4 hours

This formula has become very popular in the west due to its effectiveness in heading off a virus. It is taken at the first sign of a cold, typically a sore scratchy throat, a raw feeling in the soft palate, or even feeling worn down as if a virus is coming on. The trick in successfully beating the virus is using the proper dosage. Upon first sign of a cold take 5 tablets (I like the extra concentrated kind from Plum Flower) every 2-4 hours until the sore throat goes away.

Believe me this formula is awesome! The popular herbal remedy Airborne is based on this formula but in my experience is not as potent as the Chinese version. Children can take this formula too but their dose would be 2-3 tablets every 3-4 hours. And yes, there can be side effects for those with sensitive tummies. After taking Yin Chiao a few times one may get some loose stools. Which brings us to the next remedy….

Curing

Curing Pills 

Indication: Upset stomach, gas, bloating, diarrhea

Dosage: 3 capsules as needed

Aka hangover pills, this formula is truly a godsend when you’ve had too many drinks, too much greasy fried whatever, ate the ice cream you know doesn’t agree with you, etc. As the name suggests, it “cures” bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Most times one 3 capsule dose will do the trick but a second dose might be necessary. It works quickly and it is very safe. Children can take just one capsule for upset tummies. It comes in the form of a capsule containing ten tiny black balls. For kids I open the capsule and have them swallow the tiny black balls one by one. Don’t chew, it’ll taste yucky. A similar formula of little black balls in a vial is called Po Chai Pills. Most of you with Chinese family will have taken this at some point in your childhood. If two doses of Curing Pills doesn’t alleviate your symptoms see the next formula.

HXZQS

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San 

Indication: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach flu

Dosage: 8 pills as needed every half hour or more

This little treasure is less famous than the Curing pills but is well worth having in the cabinet. This is for stronger digestive upset such as the stomach flu, food poisoning, vomiting and diarrhea. This will address the virus and stop the symptoms. Not only will it relieve diarrhea and vomiting but goes farther to speed your recovery time. Take 8 of the pills (Plum Flower Brand) per dose. Wait 30 minutes. Take another dose. You should start to feel better. As your body fights this virus rest and take a dose every few of hours to maintain normal digestion.

PSO

Wood lock/Po Sum On oil/White Flower oil

Indication: Sore achy muscles

Dosage: Apply topically twice a day

These are Chinese topical analgesics. Here in Hawaii many of us are familiar with these nose-opening smells as we have helped massage them into our grandpas’ backs or smelled them on the hard-working, elderly or injured. Satohap, Icy-hot, and Tiger balm are all variations of these formulas to ease sore muscles. They really do bring some nice temporary relief to the over worked body but watch out, don’t get it in your eyes! I personally prefer Po Sum On oil. It’s more spreadable than the Woodlock or White Flower liniments but any of them can be mixed 50/50 with lotion to create a more massage oil-like consistency that easy to spread and massage into a sore back. But when you’re really injured use the following magic in a bottle…..

YNBY

Yunnan Bai Yao Liniment 

Indications: Bruises, traumatic injury, sprains, strains

Dosage: Apply topically 2-3 times a day

This stuff is crazy good. It’s designed for bruising, traumatic injury such as sprains, strains, soft tissue injury that can result from a fall, a fight (or if you were practicing your Kung-fu), some particularly challenging yard work, if you dropped something on your foot, etc. Just spray the liniment on unbroken skin and lightly rub in with your finger tips. Use your common sense and don’t get it in your eyes or mouth. There are two spray cans that come in the box, one is white and tall and one is short and red. Use the white one for aches and pains, it’s milder. Use the red one for more serious injuries. Relief is often felt within a few minutes.

If you do have a cut or broken skin you can sprinkle the powdered version of Yunnan Bai Yao directly into the cut to stop the bleeding and promote healing.

CAUTIONS –PLEASE READ

Yin Chiao, Curing Pills and Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San are safe for children but dosage must be adjusted to about half the adult dose depending on the age and size of the child. Yin Chiao may cause loose stools. Contact a herbalist if you have any questions.

Wood lock, White Flower and Po Sum On oil are for topical use only. Do not use them on children – their skin is simply too sensitive and they won’t like it. Not to mention they’re bound to get it in their eyes. Also not for use during pregnancy.

Do not use Yunnan Bai Yao if you are pregnant or nursing. Use sparingly on children but if they have injuries Yunnan Bai Yao can be a great help in relieving their pain and speeding healing.

And as always, when in doubt, come in and see the herbalist!

Prices for these products at Windward Acupuncture are: Yin Chiao $16, Curing Pills $10, Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San $12, Po Sum On oil $16 or Woodlock oil $20, Yunnan Baiyao $25. A set of these can be purchased for a reduced price of $75.

Visit my website at windwardacupuncture.com or drop me an email at windwardqi@yahoo.com.