ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: Increasingly Embraced by HMOs
A new study reports that 67% of all HMOs cover at least one form of non-traditional medicine, with 65% of those surveyed offering chiropractic care and 31% acupuncture. The survey of 449 HMOS, conducted by National Market Measures, Inc., for Landmark Healthcare between Nov. 1998 and Jan. 1999, also shows that 38% of HMOs provide alternative care in response to patient demand, the same percentage that say they offer the services because of legislative mandates and legal requirements. Other findings:
- The split is fairly even between HMOs that believe alternative medicine would have a minimal (30%) or positive effect on the bottom line (21%), and those that believe alternative medicine would add to total costs (49%).
- Forty-three percent of HMOs do not characterize chiropractic as "alternative care," a finding that "validates the reputed mainstreaming of this treatment option."
- HMOs surveyed said acupuncture (36%), acupressure (31%), massage therapy (30%) and vitamin therapy (27%) were the therapies most likely to be added over the next two to three years (Landmark release, 3/10).
Resurgence of Osteopathy
The era of managed care has brought osteopathy, which stresses the body's "inherent ability to maintain health and recover from illness," back toward the mainstream, the St. Louis Post- Dispatch reports. At the same time "a throwback to the old school of medicine and a grab-bag of New Age concepts," osteopathy takes "into account mental and emotional factors as well as physical symptoms." DO ranks have swelled 54% in the last decade, to more than 43,600. Like allopathic doctors (MDs), DOs attend four years of medical school, followed by residency programs, and study "the same science, anatomy, pharmacology and chemistry." Most DOs, taught to practice "with less emphasis on expensive testing," become general practitioners, and many set up shop in inner-city and rural areas. The number of osteopaths practicing at osteopathic hospitals has dropped as they are increasingly "permitted to practice alongside M.D.s in most hospitals." Once scorned by traditional medicine for non- mainstream ideas, the practice of osteopathy "has embraced scientific medicine. That's why it has survived when other medical sects did not," said Washington University history of medicine professor Dr. Kenneth Ludmerer (Carlton, 3/10).
HMOs Dealing with Menopause
The American Association of Health Plans released yesterday a best managed care practices guide for treating health problems associated with menopause, such as osteoporosis, breast cancer and heart disease. The AAHP recommends strategies to promote doctor-patient communication and encourages lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The organization released a list of ten questions to help women assess their health plans (AAHP release, 3/10).