Does Insurance Cover It?
- Original article Massage Therapy Author, Nora Brunner MA, APR
* Most chiropractic and physical-therapy treatments are reimbursed by health insurance, while more than 90 percent of massage therapy sessions are paid out of the client’s pocket.
* When it comes to receiving third-party insurance reimbursement, only 18 percent of ABMP practitioners do so. Almost all such work is related to disability or accident rehabilitation.
* The services of a massage therapist or bodywork professional may be covered by health insurance when prescribed by a chiropractor or osteopath. Therapies provided as part of a prescribed treatment by a physician or registered physical therapist are often covered.
* A number of health insurance plans now recognize massage by assembling networks of approved massage therapist providers. While few of these plans reimburse therapists for massage work, therapists provide their services to eligible clients for a 20 percent to 25 percent discount from their normal charge rates.
* Some therapists have strong feelings about how the profession is viewed and compensated by the insurance industry.
Insurance Reimbursement and the Profession of Massage
According to the ABMP 2007 Member Survey, just 14 percent of massage therapists and bodyworkers submit claims for insurance reimbursement for their services. Nearly all of this is related to disability or accident rehabilitation.
While most chiropractic and physical therapy treatments are reimbursed by health insurance, more than 90 percent of massage therapy sessions are paid out of the client’s own pocket. In some cases, massage is covered only when prescribed by a physician, registered physical therapist, chiropractor or osteopath.
A number of plans have tried to meet consumer demand for massage therapy without specifically assigning medical criteria to its use. Some have assembled networks of approved massage therapist providers who provide services to eligible clients discounted by 20 percent or 25 percent in return for the plans funneling clients their way.
To many practitioners, this is a source of frustration and indignation. Especially in comparison with other treatments, such as chiropractic care and physical therapy, they wonder why massage therapy is treated as a “second-class” modality. It seems to them that the possible preventive-medicine and pain-relief aspects of massage therapy present an opportunity for cost savings to insurance plans, as well as reduced discomfort to clients. Although the hard scientific data is still less than optimum, the existing studies and anecdotal information supporting the use of massage for such conditions as pain seem enough to these professionals to warrant coverage.
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