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Why are massages not covered by insurance

04 December 2012 | Massage Therapy Insurance

Massage and Insurance

One of the biggest search engine questions that comes through on is this: Why are massages not covered by insurance?


I am amazed when it comes up for three reasons.


The first one is… This Question relating massage and insurance comes in DAILY! Everyday I can see in the query search someone wondering why it isn’t covered or how does massage billing work.


The thing is… whether a massage therapist is wondering or whether an injured person is wondering, the fact that the question is being asked is important and you should pay attention to it.


The second reason is this… Whenever I go out to do chair massage events I am most often asked – “Where is your shop?” or “What Salon do you work out of?” or “Where’s your studio?”


It is a rare occasion that I am asked where my OFFICE is located. In my mind I see Shop, Salon, Studio not at all related to a health practice. And so many general people I meet don’t associate massage with health care. Instead it’s a feel good luxury and an expensive way to relax.


Now when I explain where I work, how I work, and what my clients experience, THEN the light bulb goes off. The person realizes massage therapy is a health field and THEN they ask me if it’s covered by insurance.


But THEN, I have to explain to them why it is not covered and what some massage therapists are trying to do in order for that to change. And THEN the person is even more confused by what I have just explained and fall back on their own knowing – Its a Feel Good Luxury.


The third reason why this question amazes me is that most conversations I have with massage therapists about insurance work is not all that favorable towards insurance.  In the case of No-Fault (which in NY State includes massage therapists as providers in their No-Fault Laws) the therapists are either afraid of being denied reimbursement or they are afraid of getting burned by clients. Many have lost out on hundreds and hundreds of dollars in both such instances.


Now when I explain to them how I work and what I consistently experience, getting reimbursed 100% and have clients repeat or refer after they have recovered, I always see the light bulb go off. By the looks on their faces, I imagine them thinking “How is this possible” or  “She is full of S#@*!” or “If she can do it then maybe I can too.”


The therapist has just started a very important process of discernment and as a solo practitioner, considering multiple revenue streams can be the difference between continued practice or hanging up one’s holster/bolster.


But back to the question… Why are massages not covered by insurance?


I wrote about this back in the post entitled Do Insurance Companies Recognize Massage and the thing I want to reiterate is that …


Insurances DO cover massages but not when a massage therapist is providing them, which then it depends on the type of insurance you are talking about and WHAT state you practice.


Although many therapists see this as a confusing mess they would just assume stay away from, I see it as an opportunity.


The question isn’t about Why are massages not covered by insurance, its more about HOW can I engage in conversations with potential clients who have this question and BE the expert for them on the subject. IF you can position yourself with some level of expertise on the subject you establish another layer of trust with the people you may interact with who need your care.


Here’s an example of how engaging and being trusted affects the bottom line: I was talking to my colleague over lunch in a restaurant about this very subject, explaining to her my views. Before we left, the woman in the next seat over said “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhearing your conversation. Are you a massage therapist? [and then] Can I have your card?”


Yesterday, several months later, she called to book an appointment. When she arrived and sat down her first comments proved how important it is to understand why you need to know this stuff about insurance. “You sounded like a real expert and you know what you are doing. I want a health professional, not someone who is not experienced.”


This new client has the instinct that massage is supposed to be health related and is more than a Feel Good Luxury. She is willing to pay and come in on a regular basis and bring her husband. Now she is not using insurance, she can’t. But my point is that just by having knowledge about the insurance situation added two new people to my client list and I did nothing to advertise, except for the $8 I spent on lunch.


I know this may not be what you were expecting in an answer, but I think its important to address the fact that the question comes up, ALOT and that nobody is going to position us as experts unless we do it.


I read surveys on two professional organizations website that state significant increases in numbers of general public seeking massage for health reasons. So the question “Why are massages not covered by insurance” will likely increase as well.


When people associate massage with health, its not a stretch to assume that when one thinks of health care they will make an association with insurance. This is where, at the very least, we as massage therapists need to have the knowledge to explain Why it is not covered and what is being done to change it.

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