Acupuncture Is A Cost-Effective Healthcare Option

The lack of acupuncture coverage by insurance companies in Massachusetts at best disappointing.  Very few companies actually cover acupuncture treatments.  I know I save insurance companies  tens of thousands each year.  I have little doubt that my acupuncture colleagues in Massachusetts in total save insurance companies many millions.   We would save insurance companies more money if we weren’t a last resort.

How could I be so sure we are saving so much?  One metric is simply based on people telling me they need surgery.  Back, knee, intestinal, hip etc.   Many times after a series of acupuncture treatments people feel remarkably better.   If they underwent surgery those procedure are often at minimum $15,000 per procedure. ( typically much more).   If people came to us before getting an expensive MRI the cost effectiveness would be even further realized.

Many people are not interested in taking medications with side effects. It seems more and more people are waking up to the fact that mediation for chronic conditions only treats symptoms and does little to help the underlying issue. Acupuncture is one of many great modalities that can help correct chronic conditions that Western medicine where western medicine has little answers except medication or surgery.  Those answers can be very costly.

The review just released below demonstrates the cost effectiveness of acupuncture to back up my claim.

Acupunct Med. 2012 Dec;30(4):273-85.
A systematic review of cost-effectiveness analyses alongside randomised controlled trials of acupuncture.
Kim SY, Lee H, Chae Y, Park HJ, Lee H.
OBJECTIVE: To summarise the evidence on the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture.

METHODS: We identified full economic evaluations such as cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA), cost-utility analysis (CUA) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA) alongside randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that assessed the consequences and costs of acupuncture for any medical condition. Eleven electronic databases were searched up to March 2011 without language restrictions. Eligible RCTs were assessed using the Cochrane criteria for risk of bias and a modified version of the checklist for economic evaluation. The general characteristics and the results of each economic analysis such as incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) were extracted.

RESULTS:Of 17 included studies, nine were CUAs that measured quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and eight were CEAs that assessed effectiveness of acupuncture based on improvements in clinical symptoms. All CUAs showed that acupuncture with or without usual care was cost-effective compared with waiting list control or usual care alone, with ICERs ranging from €3011/QALY (dysmenorrhoea) to €22 298/QALY (allergic rhinitis) in German studies, and from £3855/QALY (osteoarthritis) to £9951/QALY (headache) in UK studies. In the CEAs, acupuncture was beneficial at a relatively low cost in six European and Asian studies. All CUAs were well-designed with a low risk of bias, but this was not the case for CEAs.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, this review demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture. Despite such promising results, any generalisation of these results needs to be made with caution given the diversity of diseases and the different status of acupuncture in the various countries.

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