Will “Obamacare” Improve Access to Preventative and Integrative Medicine?

Although passed into law back in 2010, The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a significant government expansion and regulatory overhaul of the country’s healthcare system, commonly referred to as “Obamacare”, is beginning to gain media attention once again as the October 1st enrollment date approaches.  A significant number of people (40% of Americans) not only don’t understand this legislation, but cannot even confirm that it is, in fact, law.  Although I am at least with it enough to know that it exists, I admit that the details of the ACA and what it will truly look like in practice is a source of confusion for me.  If you want to try and make sense of the ACA for yourself, you can find information here, here and here.

As a health professional, I support the idea of accessible healthcare.  As a naturopathic doctor, I also believe in the power of a preventative and integrative approach to medicine.  It’s with a belief in this approach that I am most interested to see how the complete roll-out of the ACA will ultimately make a mark on health, both financial and physical, in this country.

A specific clause of the ACA, Section 2706, is at the heart of both the preventative and integrative medicine debate.  This clause requires that insurance companies “shall not discriminate” against any health provider with a state-recognized license.  Again, coming from the perspective of a naturopathic doctor, this is a compelling statement.  Although I’ve been licensed and recognized as a primary care physician in California since 2005, participating as a provider through major health insurance plans has not been an available option for me.  Most plans cover traditional providers: MDs, DOs and perhaps RDs.  This means that although I have valuable, largely preventative and low-cost treatments to offer, they are out of reach to most people.  A $90, 30 minute visit is quite reasonable…unless you’re used to paying a $10 co-pay.

Given what I have been able to tease out of the research I’ve done on the ACA and Section 2706, it seems a more integrative approach to health options will largely be up to interpretation by each individual state.  Hopefully, overtime, and assuming the ACA survives long enough to truly become successful, best practices will emerge and states will adopt a more consistent approach to the delivery of preventative and integrative services.

A recent piece in The Washington Post interviewed a leader within the naturopathic community, Dr. Jane Guiltinan, about her predictions and hopes for the future of healthcare in our country as a result of this piece of legislation.  In the piece she quoted an often referred to belief in naturopathic care,

Health is more than the absence of disease.

If we really want to shift the status of health in our country, it seems a mental shift by insurance companies, state government and society at large may be required first.

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