All posts tagged Affordable Care Act

Celebrating a Medicine That’s Changing Medicine

Naturopathic Medicine Week, October 7-13th

I am a naturopathic doctor.

I represent a community of approximately 4400 practicing physicians in the United States.   We may be small in number, but what we lack in size we make up for in a passion and commitment to the philosophies we took an oath to honor:  that our bodies’ have an inherent wisdom of how to be well and our primary job as a doctor is to remove barriers to health in order to honor this ability, that at our core we are teachers and in order to truly cure, we must empower our patients to become active participants in their healing process, and that treating symptoms is not the end game, but merely clues to identify and treat the causes of disease.

When you’re small it’s often hard to be seen.  That’s why the recently passed Senate Resolution 211, establishing this week, October 7-13th, as national Naturopathic Medicine Week is such a big deal.

From the authors of the resolution,

…naturopathic medicine provides noninvasive, holistic treatments that support the inherent self-healing capacity of the human body and encourage self-responsibility in health care.

They go on to state,

That the Senate recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care; and encourage the people of the United States to learn about naturopathic medicine and the role that naturopathic physicians play in preventing chronic and debilitating illnesses and conditions.

Awareness about what naturopathic medicine has to offer couldn’t come at a better time.  As a society, we’re really, really sick.  Two-thirds of us are overweight or obese, leaving us at risk for the development of serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and depression.  88 million of us have high blood pressure and 25 million have insulin resistant diabetes.  A full 75% of our national health care costs are focused on these chronic, yet largely preventable, diseases.

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are specialists of diet and lifestyle-based treatments and it’s exactly these treatments that are proven to be the most effective medicine for the prevention and treatment of these chronic illnesses.  We receive an average of 70 hours of nutrition education and an additional 130 hours of training in therapeutic diets compared to an average of just 19 hours of basic nutrition education in conventional medical programs.  We look at the physical, emotional, environmental and social influences and approach each patient as the unique person that they are, using the least invasive (and often less expensive) treatment possible.  In addition, we tend to set up shop where we’re needed most, a full 50 percent of us work with underserved populations.

I believe naturopathic medicine is an essential part of the solution to our health care crisis.  We are a medicine that is changing medicine and it’s for this reason that I am celebrating Naturopathic Medicine Week.  To learn more about naturopathic medicine and find a naturopathic physician near you, please visit our national association, The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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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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