Americans Spend Big On Non-Conventional Health Care Services

Complementary medicine, medical tourism contribute to increase in personal health care expenses.

Americans’ out-of-pocket health care costs are rising, but not all of it is due to rising health insurance co-payments and deductibles. Two new reports indicate that people liberally spend their own money on non-conventional sources of medical care.
The National Center for Health Statistics said an estimated 59.3 million people age 4 or older spent $30.2 billion out-of-pocket in 2012 on complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, services. CAM services are non-conventional medical treatments like acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic manipulation, hypnosis, massage therapy and diet supplements. Most CAM services are not covered by health insurance.
Most of the $30.2 billion was spent on visits to non-conventional practitioners ($14.7 billion) and natural product supplements ($12.8 billion), according to the NCHS report.
Consumer spending on CAM services “constitute a substantial part of out-of-pocket health care costs and are comparable to out-of-pocket costs for conventional physician services and prescription drugs,” the NCHS said.
New figures released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services projected out-of-pocket national health expenditures to reach $350.1 billion this year and climb nearly 60 percent to $555.8 billion by 2025.
A separate report from Visa and Oxford Economics said as much as 4 percent of the world’s population travels internationally for medical treatment, spending an estimated $439 billion annually on care outside of their home country. The report said one of the major drivers of growth in the medical tourism business is the fact that certain treatments and medications are not approved or available in a patient’s home country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 750,000 U.S. citizens travel to another country for care each year.
The top five countries that medical tourists visit for treatments are Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Singapore and India, according to the Medical Tourism Index compiled by the Medical Tourism Association.