This post is more of an editorial than usual, so bear with me.
There aren’t many other topics lately that spark such a heated debate as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). People love it and hate it, some think it’s socialist and some think it’s long overdue. Some think it’s completely overboard and others think it is not nearly enough. Some think it’s expensive others think it’s only a mere fraction of our actual healthcare costs. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and no one can really expect us all to agree on whether it is right or wrong. Surely we will not agree on what is “enough”, as the scale varies wildly from “provide nothing to nobody” to “provide everything for everybody”. This post is only to provide an inside scoop from a Naturopathic Physician’s perspective.
ACCESS TO CARE: Since January 1st I have seen an influx of patients coming in to the clinic for general checkups or to take care of their known health problems. Some of them have been without health insurance for years because they could not afford it. Patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, psychiatric issues, and other conditions have been without medications, labwork and imaging for extended periods of time. For those of you lucky enough not to have any chronic health conditions, let me stress how critical it is to get regular care. Unmanaged health issues can result in heart attacks, blindness, pain, nerve problems, and much more. It has been truly amazing to provide care to these patients who are so greatly in need. I’ve also seen patients who have insurance for the first time in their lives, and are being diagnosed with serious conditions that they did not know they had. The sooner we diagnose a problem and address the cause, the healthier they will be. It is LONG overdue that everyone has equal access to healthcare.
ACCESS TO NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE: On a more political level, the ACA contains a clause which states that insurers cannot discriminate against medical providers who practice within their scope. Therefore, medical providers will be reimbursed the same rate for similar services. This is a huge step for Naturopathic Physicians who practice in primary and specialty care. First of all, many insurance companies do not cover Naturopathic services, which excludes a large population from seeking our care. Second of all, if it is covered, often times the reimbursement rate is significantly lower than if the patient saw an MD (sometimes as low as 15% of the typical reimbursement rate for an MD visit). Interestingly, Naturopathic visits are often twice as long and therefore much more in depth, and also involve much more counseling and education (such as dietary advice, supplementation, herbal medicines, exercises, physical treatments, etc). This makes it extremely difficult to have a sustainable business. Although much of the population does not know what Naturopathic Physicians do, and maybe wouldn’t choose to utilize our medicine, we deserve to be reimbursed at the same level for those who choose to use our services. I take great pride in offering my patients safe, effective and thorough care, which should be reimbursed as such.
It has been truly inspiring and motivating to see so many people take charge of their health since January 1st. I imagine that this year will continue to bring many new people to healthcare, and hopefully more people to Naturopathic Medicine. I know the plan isn’t anywhere near perfect. I know that it is expensive. But, if you have been fortunate enough to have access to healthcare and insurance your whole life (such as I have), you may not realize how life-changing the ACA is. It has taken me seeing it through the eyes of my patients to realize this. I hope that sharing my side of things has helped others see the benefits of the ACA.
Here’s a great link about the ACA and Naturopathic Medicine: http://www.bastyr.edu/news/general-news-home-page/2013/01/health-care-reform-extends-reach-naturopathic-medicine