Massage, Acupuncture, and Yoga May All Be Part of Your Health Plan

Quit grumbling under your breath when that footloose freelancer friend of yours wants to grab a three-hour lunch on a Thursday. Just remind yourself that you have health coverage and she doesn't. And if that sounds 401(K)-level boring, then use those three hours to sit at your desk and plumb the depths of your insurance benefits website -- because there's likely more to your plan than annual jabs with a speculum.

There's no denying there's plenty wrong with our healthcare system these days, but we're not here to debate universal coverage. (If we were, we'd say: Um, yes, please!) We're here instead to celebrate the hidden goodies you aren't getting -- but possibly could be, depending on your plan. So make sure you're making the most of that paycheck deduction by asking for these five indulgences:

Massage and acupuncture. All hail the rise of alternative medicine: The likes of Aetna, Medicare, Prudential, Cigna and Kaiser Permanente cover various forms of rubdowns and acupuncture treatments. And there are now even insurance services that cover only Eastern-type practices, though don't count on your major conglomerate joining up anytime soon. On the other hand, larger companies are the most likely to offer these fringe benefits on top of the traditional stuff -- Time Warner, for instance, even has their recommended acupuncturist right on the company website with a link to make appointments. Granted, we're talking mostly about discounts and limited numbers of sessions, and the coverage is most often associated with physical therapy or chiropractic treatment, but still. (How many do you need, anyway?) So look into the fine print, of course -- you could need pre-authorization or a referral, or you might need to have a specific kind of injury or condition. And make sure you get whatever documentation you need -- receipts, sworn affidavits, Papal dispensations -- to get the coverage you deserve. Otherwise you're going to need a massage just to recover from getting your massage.

Skincare. You're never going to convince your provider to pony up for the Bliss Triple Oxygen Treatment (no matter how much better it makes you feel than a mammogram). Get yourself officially diagnosed with acne, though, and you can get some serious treatment (not that you don't deserve it). Cortisone injections -- those glorious little pricks of the needle that stop the madness of those obscenely deep zits -- might warrant some partial coverage as an "outpatient" procedure (but you might have to make sure your doctor herself, and not a nurse, administers them). Oh, and glory of all glories, that miracle known as Retin-A -- which somehow clears skin and fights wrinkles at the same time -- could cost you a mere $20 while running your clear-skinned friends upwards of $100. So there.

Nutrition counseling. Some plans will reimburse you for some of the cost, so instead of suffering through another crazy cleanse, why not get some solid advice from a real pro? It'll even be personalized, unlike that diet plan in the latest issue of Cosmo, which means it won't force you to eat the broccoli you hate, and it might even include the occasional chocolate ice cream you can't live without (in moderation -- nutrition counselors aren't miracle workers). Great for any of us, of course, but even more important if you've got a condition, like hypertension or a gastrointestinal disorder, that requires special dietary attention.

Meditation and yoga. It's true -- Kaiser Permanente, for one, offers yoga, meditation, and tai chi programs to its members with an eye toward preventative care. Again, check with your insurer to see if they offer discounts and such -- or even ask your employer directly, as they might provide partial reimbursement for gym membership or classes that would also include yoga studios and all the spiritual sustenance they have to offer.

Therapy. A mere $15 co-pay for somebody to listen to nothing but you, you, you for an hour? No wonder that freelancer needs a three-hour lunch and you don't.

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