By Michael Cronin, ND
I invite you to ‘take a deep breath’ and appreciate our Naturopathic profession for a moment with me. We are a relatively small profession with strong institutions and deep roots, we have: nearly 4,000 ND licenses in the U.S., five U.S. colleges, legal recognition in 16 states (plus D.C., Puerto Rico and The U.S. Virgin Islands) and full scope in eight of those states. Meanwhile, the profession in Canada includes another nearly 2,000 NDs and an international Naturopathic community is taking form in India, England, Australia and New Zealand. Our community in America is growing and we have a distinct professional identity.
As people recognize that they must take more personal responsibility for their health, they will come to understand the advantages of our medicine. Our patients appreciate our expertise and clinical work: our doctors are in demand with successful practices and innovative approaches. There is a growing body of work that supports the methods we use and we are working to increase the amount of evidence of ND effectiveness.
It is essential to build a stronger and more effective professional community in 2012 in order to license new states, expand laws to full scope, improve how we educate the public, manage our media affairs and recruit patients for our members.
In the area of government affairs, an urgent and immediate opportunity for the AANP is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law last year. The inclusion of the term “licensed CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) provider and integrative health practitioner” could be a game-changer for our profession as well as our patients, if NDs are included in the pending rulemaking process. Short of having NDs specifically mentioned, we believe there may be opportunity to ensure against insurance caps on CAM services. It is my belief that the Obama Administration, despite this being an election year, is working to determine the rules and regulations surrounding the implementation of the ACA.
I note, however, there is a legal challenge to the ACA by 26 states that will be heard by the United States Supreme Court. This suit challenges the mandate that every person not covered by a government or corporate policy must purchase private health insurance. Once the Justices make a ruling on whether the mandate is constitutional, the issue of severability remains a question. However, it is possible the other sections and definitions of the ACA will stand.
The most important component of the ACA may be section 2706 on non-discrimination, which is planned to go into effect January 1, 2014:
Providers - A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider's license or certification under applicable State law.
There are other sections of law that recognize “licensed complementary and alternative practitioners and integrative health providers” and their involvement in (1) community health teams (2) national prevention, health promotion and public health council (3) the national health care workforce commission, (4) patient centered outcomes research, and (5) demonstration projects concerning individualized wellness plans. For a summary of the components of the Affordable Care Act, take a look at this guide at theintegratorblog.com
Outside the ACA, the AANP’s Government Affairs strategy includes seeking ND eligibility for tuition forgiveness in rural health care and recognition of NDs within the Veterans Administration or Department of Defense.
2012 brings challenges we plan to use as opportunities. I encourage all NDs to be involved with your state associations and the AANP. I invite you all to join our DC Federal Legislative Initiative (DC FLI) on May 5-7, 2012 to engage with the Federal legislative process so we as a community shape our future.