Back to: Health Information

Get the Facts
Paying for CAM Treatment

On this page

If you are using (or thinking about using) complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)A group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine., you may have financial questions about paying for treatment. This fact sheet answers some frequently asked questions on this topic. To find out more about any topic or resource that is mentioned, see For More Information.

General Questions

How do people pay for CAM treatments?

They pay for CAM treatments in one or both of these ways:

What are some questions to ask about paying for CAM treatment?

Some questions to ask a CAM practitioner or his office staff are:

If you have a health insurance plan, some other questions are:

If it would be difficult for you to pay the full fee at each visit, you can ask:


Insurance Issues

What types of CAM coverage do employers offer?

If an employer offers CAM coverage, it usually has one or more of the following aspects:

Employers negotiate with insurance companies for their rates and services, usually once a year. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Federal Government, has publications on choosing and using a health insurance plan.

What are some important things to find out about my plan's coverage of CAM?

First, it is important to read your plan to find out whether it discusses coverage of the therapy in which you are interested. If anything about the coverage is not clear or you have questions, contact the insurance company before you decide about having treatment. Examples of questions that people often ask company representatives are:

It is a good idea to keep detailed records about all contacts you have with the insurance company, including notes on calls and copies of bills, claims, and letters. This will help you if a dispute arises about a claim.

Does my state have any laws about CAM coverage?

The following resources can help you answer this question:

Which insurance companies cover CAM?

Your state insurance department may be able to help you with this question. Many of these departments provide consumer publications, such as profiles and ratings of companies. (They do not provide recommendations or advice on specific companies.) An insurance broker (an agent who sells policies for a variety of companies) may also be a resource.

My insurance company denied my claim for CAM treatment. Is there anything I can do?

Yes, there are some things you can do:

If the problem is still not resolved, contact your state insurance department.


Tax-Related Matters

What are FSAs and HSAs, and can they help me with CAM expenses?

An FSA (short for flexible spending arrangement or flexible spending account) is a benefit offered by some employers. An FSA allows you to set aside pretax dollars each pay period for health-related expenses (some employers also make contributions). You submit receipts for yourself, your spouse, and/or your dependents to the FSA administrator for health-related expenses that were not covered some other way (for example, by insurance). You are then reimbursed for qualifying expenses (check your plan's language on this), such as deductibles, medical appointments, tests, and medicines.

An HSA (short for health savings account) is another type of tax-exempt account. It is for people who participate in a high-deductible health plan (also called a catastrophic health plan). In an HSA, you—not your employer—establish and maintain the account (although some employers make contributions). You can also invest your HSA funds to earn tax-deductible interest.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has further information on these accounts. The IRS does not allow the same expenses to be reimbursed through an FSA or HSA and also claimed as tax deductions.

Can I deduct CAM treatments on my income tax return?

In tax year 2007, the IRS allowed taxpayers to deduct medical expenses for a limited number of CAM services and products, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care. These expenses were generally allowed for taxpayers and their spouses and dependents. Note that people cannot deduct the same medical expenses from their taxes and an FSA or HSA.


Sources of Financial Assistance

Can the Federal Government help me with expenses for CAM?

The Federal Government helps with at least some of the health expenses of people who are eligible for Federal health benefit programs—usually because they meet one or more of the following conditions:

That assistance may be direct (through payments) or indirect (through benefits like medical care at public clinics). Examples of programs that may provide some CAM coverage under some circumstances (as of July 2008) are:

GovBenefits and are two Internet resources that explain Federal health benefit programs. GovBenefits has a test you can take about qualifying for programs. State and local departments of health or social services also have financial assistance programs for eligible residents, and you can contact them directly to inquire.

Does NCCAM provide financial help for CAM treatment?

Financial help for treatment does not fit under NCCAM's mission. NCCAM does sponsor clinical trials (research studies in people) of some CAM treatments. To find out what therapies are being studied and whether you might qualify to participate, go to, or contact the NCCAM Clearinghouse.

Are there any other potential sources of financial assistance?

If treatment (whether CAM or conventional) for a disease or condition is creating a financial crisis for you and your family, you might find it helpful to contact nonprofit organizations that focus on the disease or condition. To locate them, try an Internet search or check directories at your local library. If you are receiving care at a hospital or clinic, ask if a social worker or patient advocate could advise you.


¹Health care providers and insurance companies use a standard set of numbered codes to bill for medical services.

For More Information

NCCAM Clearinghouse

The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-866-464-3615
Web site:


A service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. CAM on PubMed, developed jointly by NCCAM and NLM, is a subset of the PubMed system and focuses on the topic of CAM.

Web site:
CAM on PubMed:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

CMS administers several programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-877-267-2323
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-866-226-1819
Web site:

Department of Labor (DOL)

DOL has publications on Federal health care laws, including HIPAA and COBRA, that apply to job seekers, workers, and retirees.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365)
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-877-889-5627
Web site:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The IRS is the nation's tax collection agency. Among its services are publications for consumers.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-800-829-1040
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-800-829-4059
Web site:

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.

NCCAM Publication No. D331
Created November 2006
Updated August 2008


Note: The PDF file requires a viewer such as Adobe Reader, which you can download free of charge from the Adobe Web site.