Is yoga for back pain covered by insurance or Medicare?
Whether or not you personally practice yoga, there is a very good chance that you know someone who does. There may be those who still believe that yoga is something done mainly in other parts of the world, but it is currently estimated that more than 20 million people here in the U.S. practice yoga. That may seem like a lot, but, based on the growing appeal of this practice that has been around for thousands of years, this is probably just the beginning. Americans are turning to yoga for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from aches and pains to a search for spiritual enlightenment.
The practice of yoga has been the subject of study and research by medical professionals, and, even though some of its claims have not completely satisfied all Western-style analytical questioning, it is now being included in the medical practices of a rapidly increasing number of health professionals. Some physicians are becoming trained in yoga, themselves, or are adding certified practitioners to their staffs. As part of a group of complementary techniques that often include acupuncture, massage and PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) therapy, yoga is recommended for a variety of issues, such as asthma, fatigue, weight loss, cardiovascular disease and chronic pain, especially back pain.
Lots of people seek out yoga classes to relieve stress, increase their flexibility or find some sort of peace and relaxation from the meditative component. Even though each of those motivators would seem to fall in the category of “healthcare”, few of us would even think to wonder if the cost of those sessions would be covered by health insurance. Obviously, a case could be made that they should be, but that is a discussion for another time. But, what about when yoga is recommended or literally prescribed by your doctor for something like chronic back pain?
Doctors are embracing alternative treatment protocols like yoga because they have proven to be effective, while also being non-invasive. Surgery for back pain is now done in only the most extreme cases, because there is a better chance of success using more conservative measures. This is true with all sorts of conditions. In fact, there was a study done at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital that concluded that when people use techniques like yoga they are far less likely to require any sort of medical care than those who do not. The actual figure was that their need for hospitalization, testing or emergency care was reduced by 43 percent.
So, what about that insurance coverage? Despite these promising research results, insurance coverage for yoga is still sketchy. One of the basic elements of the Affordable Care Act includes preventive and wellness services. Acupuncture and massage are being approved more and more, as long as they are prescribed by your physician. Yoga has not quite reached that level for coverage, although it is being included as part of physical therapy or other types of multifaceted plans. Medicare currently does not approve yoga for payment, but it can sometimes be included for reimbursement through a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
It is believed that policy makers, both at governmental and corporate levels, will continue to recognize and appreciate the benefits and cost saving potential of yoga. Better insurance coverage practices will, hopefully, soon follow.
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physicians are committed to more than just treating your symptoms. We strongly believe that each individual is best served through an integrative treatment plan. We focus on finding the underlying cause and providing non-surgical, evidenced based solutions tailored to your specific condition and needs. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort of any sort or have questions about any of our services, we invite you to schedule a consultation by using our convenient online form by clicking here.