Naturopathy and Health Insurance: Two Payment Alternatives
Naturopathy is still considered alternative medicine by virtually every health insurance company in America. As such, the typical insurance plan does not cover most of the treatments offered by a naturopathic practitioner. So what is the patient to do? Well, just as naturopathy is an alternative to Western medicine, there are alternative payment methods for the patient who prefers to see a naturopath.
The first and most common option is to simply pay for your treatments out-of-pocket. Doing so may not be challenging for the average middle-class American who gradually discovers that learning how to live healthily naturally results in needing to see the naturopath less frequently. Still, paying out-of-pocket is not the ideal scenario for everyone. There are two options to explore in such cases: health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.
Health Savings Accounts
The Health Savings Account (HSA) was established by the federal government in 2003 to take the place of the Medical Savings Account system. Though the HSA system has undergone numerous changes over the last 12 years, the fundamentals of the program are still in place. HSAs give consumers yet another option to pay for medical care outside the realm of traditional health insurance.
HSAs are funded through contributions from both employers and individual consumers. Some employers offer HSAs as a fringe benefit alongside traditional health insurance while others do not, leaving consumers to set up their own accounts to which employers may or may not contribute. The beauty of the HSA is that the account holder determines how money will be spent. As long as expenditures meet the government’s definition of medical care, there are few rules.
Many of the treatments provided by naturopaths qualify for payment from an HSA. Obviously, you would have to check with your plan and your doctor to learn the details about specific treatments and procedures. Should you not use all of the funds in your HSA in a given year, those funds roll over into the next year. This means you could theoretically build a sizable HSA account you would not need to use until later in life.
Flexible Spending Accounts
The Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is similar to the HSA in the sense that it allows consumers to set aside a certain portion of their earnings, tax-free, to cover expenses that would otherwise have been covered by traditional medical insurance. Accounts are set up through employer-sponsored cafeteria plans. They are different from HSAs and a couple of ways.
First, the number of qualifying treatments that can be covered through FSA payments is considerably less. Your naturopath may offer treatments that would not be included in your plan. But if an FSA is all you have to work with alongside your medical insurance, some coverage is better than none at all.
The other big difference with the FSA is that unspent money does not roll over into the next year. Instead, funds must be spent prior to the end of a predetermined term. Any money left over is either
forfeited or claimed as income among the plan’s members and taxed accordingly. Bear in mind that even forfeited funds are subject to taxation.
The naturopathic community will continue to advocate for better coverage under traditional health insurance plans. But until such time as your health insurance covers naturopathic care, you will need to look for alternative forms of payment. We recommend looking into a health savings account as the first option, as it affords a lot more coverage and greater flexibility. You might also look into various healthcare sharing plans as well.