Alternative health care is becoming more acceptable to Americans because of their concern for wellness. The issue of accessibility is not quite as clear, however.
Pressed by the aging baby boom generation, an increasing number of insurance companies are responding to market pressures for coverage of selective alternative therapies, says Arizona State University adjunct professor of geography Rena Gordon and colleagues in the recently-released book, "Alternative Therapies: Expanding Options in Health Care."
Biomedicine has traditionally dominated the medical field, but an increasing number of Americans are going beyond biomedicine for health care treatment and prevention, Gordon said.
Gordon and her co-authors cited a Harvard University study that reported one-third of the adult American population used some type of unconventional therapy and a third of that segment sought the treatment of an alternative practitioner.
Alternative health care includes body healing, mind/spirit and cross-cultural efforts.
"The first major reason that people are using alternatives today, however, is dissatisfaction with aspects of Western biomedicine," Gordon said. "People have found that often it is ineffective in curing chronic diseases and it emphasizes cure rather than prevention. Many medicines can have serious side effects, biomedicine can be very austere and uncaring,
costs have soared and the benefits of biomedicine are often poorly distributed."
Aging baby boomers are interested in health and wellness, and they are open to using health care outside the boundaries of biomedicine. Boomers shop the medical marketplace for something that works for them, using both biomedicine and complementary health practices.
As the U.S. health care system focuses on cost containment, there has been a transition
from fee-for-service and indemnity insurance payments to managed care plans. Some insurers
Contact: Rena Gordon
Arizona State University