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Major Insurer Takes Wholistic Approach to Medical Coverage

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RALEIGH — According to theAmerican Medical Association, one out of every four patients choosesacupuncture, massage therapy and herbal remedies over traditional medicine.Blue Cross Blue Shieldwill become one of the first health insurers in the state to offer discounts on this type ofalternative medicine.

The demand for alternative medicine is growing and now health insurers are delivering.

Dr. Bob Harris, Chief Medical Officer of BCBSNC, says the program was created out of "the desire for consumers--patients--to have more opportunity, to have more options, to have access to more kinds of care."

Beginning August 1, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina will offer discounts of up to 25 percent offstress management, massage therapy, personal trainers, fitness centers, health spas, homeopathy, naturopathy andnutritional counseling.

Linda Davis is insured by BCBSNC, and is thrilled by the news. "I was thrilled. I was feeling like, finally somebody gets it," Davis says.

All alternative medicine practitioners must meet stringent requirements, but that doesn't bother acupuncturist Richard Shwery, who has been approached about being in the program.

"I think it's a first step and I think it's very positive," Shwery says. "I think it's important that insurance companies start recognizing that what we're doing with acupuncture is sound medical treatment."

Patients do not need a referral to be covered; all you have to do is show your insurance card. More good news, BCBSNC says the new program will not cause an increase in insurance premiums.