The Economics of Acupuncture

It seems like there’s no escape.  Every time you pick up a newspaper or listen to the evening news, what you hear about is the dismal economy, jobs being lost, and trillion dollar deficits.  One of the most pressing problems for our nation as a whole is the high cost of medical care.  The skyrocketing price tag on everything from insurance coverage, deductibles, various treatments, and doctors’ visit is not lost on any of us.  More and more health consumers are looking for creative ways to be able to afford the health care they need.  They are shopping for high deductible health plans, setting up Health Savings Accounts and Flex Plans, and shopping for comparative prices on doctors’ visits and procedures.  Many people have found that they simply can’t afford health insurance, and as a health care provider, I pay into my state’s fund for those people who are unable to afford standard health insurance.


Many people don’t consider acupuncture part of their health care picture for a variety of reasons.  In most cases, however, acupuncture is a cost effective therapy for treating many acute and chronic health conditions.  For example, if you were to throw out your back tomorrow morning from shoveling snow, you might spend a few days on the couch taking over-the-counter pain relievers.  After a couple of days in acute pain, you may decide you’ve had enough, and call your doctor take a look. 


Assuming you didn’t have health insurance or maybe your insurance carried a high deductible, you might end up paying $150-200 for your initial doctor’s visit.  According to (a website that publishes prices of medical procedures in Minnesota), a full evaluation would cost you in the neighborhood of $500.  If your doctor wanted an X-ray of your back, you could tack on $75-100, but more likely, he or she would want you to have an MRI, which would run you another $1,000.  Your doctor would then likely prescribe a stronger pain killer or muscle relaxant, and send you home to let your back heal. (Even with a disk problem, you will usually need to wait it out until the inflammation in your back calms down.)


On the other hand, if you were to do nothing other than acupuncture for relief from the pain, your cost for six visits (usually enough to get your aching back to calm down) would be less than $450. Unfortunately, in many cases I don’t see people in our clinic when they first injure their back—they usually wait until they’ve tried everything else and their back is still killing them. It’s important to know, however, that the earlier we see someone in the pain/injury cycle, the faster they will respond to acupuncture.


We are all looking for ways to live more economically.  Acupuncture can be a cost effective way to treat a number of conditions from pain to hot flashes to anxiety and depression.  Acupuncture is reimbursable under Health Savings Plans, Flexible Savings Plans, and is tax deductible. Give it a try.

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