Thursday, June 10, 1999

Groups accept
alternate health care

Both Kaiser and HMSA
will recognize alternative
therapies in Hawaii

By Helen Altonn


Kaiser Permanente Hawaii and Hawaii Medical Service Association members starting July 1 will have access to alternative care therapies -- even fitness facilities.

A free discount program will be offered to HMSA's 600,000 members with unlimited, direct access to practitioner networks and fitness clubs. A referral won't be necessary from a personal care physician.

HMSA has two partnerships for the discount program. Landmark Healthcare Inc. will provide acupuncture and nutritional supplements, and American Specialty Health Networks will provide massage therapy and fitness memberships.

American Specialty Health Networks, based in San Diego, also will manage Kaiser's alternative therapy program.

Kaiser members will be able to select from a list of chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. And if traveling, they'll have access to 2,000 fitness clubs across the country.

They'll be able to make appointments directly with providers and receive discounted rates if they show their membership card. They won't need to submit claim forms.

Herbal and vitamin products also will be available to Kaiser members at discounted rates at certain Kaiser pharmacies, by calling a toll-free number or through the Internet.

Employer groups offering Kaiser Permanente will be able to purchase supplemental benefits or "riders" so employees with Kaiser's health plan can use alternative care providers for a co-payment. Kaiser already offers a chiropractic rider to employers.

The cost of the alternative therapy rider hasn't been set, but the employee co-payment is expected to be about $10, the medical group said.

Kaiser Hawaii is the only facility in the national health maintenance organization to offer such a program, said Carol Taketa, product development director.

"We feel in Hawaii that we have the most amount of members open to alternatives," she said.

Taketa said members asked for Kaiser's help in looking at alternative therapies, and the hospital's doctors want to discuss them with members and other providers.

When doctors ask patients to bring in all the medicines they're taking, she said, "They're faced with bottles they don't even recognize -- herbals, vitamins, Chinese stuff."

Some patients mix herbal vitamins and minerals with western medicine, which could cause problems if they aren't knowledgeable about the interaction, she pointed out.

For those reluctant to say if they're going to an acupuncturist or massage therapist, she said, "This allows a lot of communication and benefits to all parties."

Cliff Cisco, HMSA senior vice president, also said its new partnerships "will help HMSA meet growing consumer demand for integrating complementary alternative care with traditional medicine.

"With Hawaii's diverse cultural heritage, HMSA's discount program seems to be a natural for many of our members."

Landmark Healthcare Inc., an alternative health-care company with headquarters in Sacramento, serves 10 million members.

American Specialty Health Networks of San Diego administers complementary health managed care programs throughout the country. The company and its affiliate, American Specialty Health Plans, also serve more than 10 million members.

They are working with PractiCare Hawaii Inc. to provide a network of alternative care providers for Kaiser Hawaii members. Credentials are being processed for more than 100 chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists on the islands, Taketa said.

Kaiser members will receive information about the alternative therapy program in the June issue of Kaiser's "Partners in Health" publication. For more information, they may call these toll-free numbers.

Bullet To obtain a discount catalog offering herbal vitamins, minerals, videos, books, yoga mats and other products, call 1-888-289-4325 or use the Web site:

Bullet For packets of program information, call the American Specialty Health Network at 1-877-299-2746. The packets include providers' names, information about how the program works and telephone numbers.

Bullet To learn about fitness clubs participating in the program, call 1-800-299-2746.

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