if you have been following us for a while, you have heard a lot about . . .
the evidence behind laser therapy
how well it can work
how many treatments it might take
what type of laser is good
how to find good and effective laser therapy care
But, what about the cost?
You need to be investing your money into treatments that work, that are not overpriced, and that are not going to risk further damage. Every dollar you put into a treatment or therapy is an investment into your body. For that reason, we will answer some of the questions most commonly asked about the cost of and access to laser therapy.
Is Laser Therapy Covered By Insurance?
The first question that most people have is, "will my insurance cover this? " Before answering that, we recommend you first consider a few other things. Spending money on healthcare has to be your investment, and the insurance can help you, but your insurance's job is not to make you healthy. Your insurance’s job is to make a profit.
Keep that in mind as we go through this topic.
Your insurance is there to try and profit as much as they can. That is their job. If you can utilize insurance to help offset the cost of keeping you healthy, that's great! That's why you have it, right? Still, that does not negate that their job is to make a profit. It may appear that the same sentiment cannot hold true for our public health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, but they are designed to spend as little money as possible to save taxpayer dollars. Yet, even Medicare is not necessarily interested in your health. They are interested in spending as little as possible.
Quality of Life Costs
Before addressing the cost and affordability of laser therapy, you should understand that we are not recommending you get this type of treatment. The first step is to get evaluated to even know if this is an option for you. And, before you get assessed, you ought to put a value on your condition. I want you to figure out how much this condition costs you—whatever the health condition is.
For example, let's say you are suffering from plantar fasciitis. You have foot pain and it gets really painful in the mornings. It may mean that you cannot go hiking on the weekends, cross-country skiing, or that you cannot play tennis or pickleball like you would like to. This condition keeps you from staying on your feet for long periods of time and limits the distance you can walk. When determining how much your condition costs, you may realize your pain is preventing you from working a full day at work.
If you are missing a half a shift of work and you get paid $20/hour, you miss four hours. There's $80 you missed out on, right? That's a hard number. This condition has now cost you $80 every workday. What about hiking? If you give up weekend hiking because you cannot do it due to your pain, how much is that worth to you? Is that a $50 hike, a $100 hike? How much would you pay for that hike and the ability to do it pain-free? That adds to the cost of this condition. What about losing out on those pickleball matches as well as the socialization that goes into having a good time and fresh air? How much is that costing?
To put it a different way, if you were involved in an accident that injured you and caused the aforementioned condition, how much would you be telling your attorney you expect to get for pain and suffering along with dealing with all of these missed opportunities, missed activities, and missed work? How much would you want?
I bet it is a lot more than a couple hundred bucks. I bet it is several thousand because these conditions that affect the way we live have more than just a monetary cost from missed work. What about time? What about the things you love to do? What about the joy you once had while chasing your grandchildren around but can no longer experience because your feet are killing you?
While this example is built around plantar fasciitis, it is not limited to just that. This works for back pain or for significant diseases like neuropathy or Parkinson's. How much is that costing you? I want you to keep that in perspective because there is a real cost to letting a disease go untreated. Also, we like to think that we can get treatment to improve conditions, but in some cases, there are no good treatment options other than laser. Think about neuropathy or traumatic brain injury, chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and Raynaud's disorder; for these, there are not really good treatment options beyond a few medications to possibly reduce symptoms. If there is not another option, then how much would you pay for the only option that's out there? I am not telling you that you need to max out all of your credit cards to get a couple of laser treatments. All I am saying is that I want you to think about what the cost of your condition is, how much it is affecting you, and what a solution is worth.
Similarly, even a minor condition—say a mild case of neuropathy that affects your balance—can have huge costs. What if you lose your balance and fall, resulting in a dislocated shoulder? Now we're talking about more significant costs, right? Hospital visits, ongoing instability, permanent impairment?
There are hidden costs
There are time costs
There are costs in activity
Truly consider how much it is costing you to continue to deal with this issue. How much time are you losing? How many activities are you not able to go and do? What about your hours at work? Are you having to cut family time short? Seriously contemplate those aspects before you go in and get checked to see if laser therapy could be an option. Get a genuine sense of how much it is truly affecting you. You need to have an idea of the type of problem you are dealing with so that you can put the right level of importance on it.
Laser Therapy vs. Traditional Medicine
Let's assume that there are other options for your condition, such as a knee sprain or a muscle strain in the back. Sure, you can get a prescription for that; but what about the copays for the drug? What about the side effects that drug may have or the medication interactions that could cause you to have a negative reaction? Then you have to change your other medications. What about the multiple, ongoing PT visits and time spent doing home stretching and exercises for something that's not resolving and getting better like it should? In once case study we have, a patient came in who had a pretty big fall from which she strained the muscles in her lower back. She had done two to three months of PT alongside medications, including Flexeril and muscle relaxers, and she had gotten about 50% better. However, she was left with significant muscle pain in her back that was not going away. She showed up in LTI's founding clinic where Dr. Rountree performed a handful of treatments (around ten), and she was completely better and doing great! Unfortunately, she had waited so long to get laser treatments that she had missed out on almost her entire summer.
Even when there are additional options for your treatment, like PT and medications, you need to consider the total cost, such as those missed times of things you wanted to do, the appointments you have to go to, running to the pharmacy, buying the medications, feeling groggy because of medication side effects. Take all this into account, and put your doctors on the spot too: Ask, what am I giving up for these treatment options?
The Growth of Laser Therapy in Modern Medicine
If you've been listening to the LTI podcast for patients, Healing at the Speed of Light, or checking out our blogs for any amount of time, you know that we are a research-based company, so we don't like to just throw out statements—we like to use evidence. So, here are a couple of quotes for you. This first quote is from an article published in 2016 in the Journal of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. The article is titled "'Quantum Leap' in Photobiomodulation [light] Therapy Ushers in a New Generation of Light-Based Treatments for Cancer and Other Complex Diseases: Perspective and Mini-Review." In this review, the authors say that "it is time to begin considering light therapy as a potential drug equivalent. In addition, light therapy may have minimal to no adverse effects, improve quality of life and functional status, and raise the current standard of care." They say that light therapy "can also offer a non-invasive and cost-effective therapeutic option for patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Further, light therapies will preserve quality of life and raise standard of care in an efficient and economical manner."
A quote from a guest editorial published this year by Dr. Jan Tuner in Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery states that the use of laser therapy in ambulatory medical care seems to offer a considerable reduction of public tax spending. That is referring to public programs like Medicare. As a matter of fact, in this editorial, Dr. Tuner goes on to say that there is somewhere between 30% and 86% of savings for some conditions treated with light therapy. That is a big deal when you consider the total picture of how much patients have to spend on medications, doctor visits, and therapies that they have to go to. Yet, when you include light therapy and laser therapy for these conditions, it brings down the cost of care.
How Much Does Laser Therapy Cost?
So, how much does laser cost?
Although it depends on you and your situation, how many treatments you need, what kind of insurance you have, and even what clinic you go to, in some states, clinics receive decent insurance reimbursement where the insurance can help pay for those treatments. In other cases, that is not an option, and you will need to use a self-pay method where you can pay for the treatments either out of pocket or using a HSA (a health savings plan). Additionally, some clinics may allow you to prepay for blocks of treatments to get a discounted rate. Overall, a trial of laser visits is affordable! When we say "a trial of laser visits," we are talking about 6-12 sessions. Somewhere in that 6th to 12th visit, you are likely to see results. If you don't, in many cases, it's time to go ahead and move on to a different therapy. For most clinics, you're looking at somewhere between $50 and $150 per session with 9 treatments on average. Altogether, 6-12 visits is not that expensive when you consider all of the other costs that could be happening:
the cost of continuing to miss out on activities
the cost of not working/reducing work hours
the cost of the pain itself
the cost of how it makes you feel
the cost of poor sleep
A trial of laser visits has become affordable whether or not your insurance covers it.
Laser Therapy Experts
Take a look at your condition and put a value on it.