US Senate Passes Resolution to Recognize Naturopathic Medicine

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013

Indulge me for a moment to applaud the United States Senate for taking a simple but monumental step forward in addressing the shortage of primary care physicians in America. On September 10th the United States Senate voted to adopt a bill supporting licensed naturopathic physicians. The Senate Simple Resolution 221 was introduced in May by Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski from Maryland. The resolution passed unanimously.

Herein I will freely quote from this resolution, which officially recognizes “the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care,” and “encourages 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.”

The bill speaks to the escalating cost of health care for illnesses that are largely preventable, such as obesity, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and heart disease. It acknowledges that 75% of all health care dollars in America are spent to treat these preventable diseases, and that 67% of us are overweight and 70% of us have poorly managed stress. It speaks favorably of the non-invasive, prevention oriented, holistic approach that naturopathic doctors use to support and promote healing. It specifically refers to the extended education, training and skills required of naturopathic doctors who treat chronic illnesses such as asthma, autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders. It also acknowledges that naturopathic medicine focuses on whole-body medicine rather than symptom management. Finally, it boldly states that “patients of naturopathic physicians report higher satisfaction and health improvement than do those of conventional practitioners.”

Now, that’s not just me saying it – that’s the United States Senate….

At some length, the bill recognizes the role that naturopathic physicians can fill as primary care doctors, at a time when such providers are in high demand and short supply. Today many clinics in America offer only the services of a Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner as a Primary Care Provider (PCP) and while these individuals may be quite competent; their training was never intended to equip them for the job of a primary care doctor. The title of PCP has historically been the realm of a physician who has completed four years of college, four years of medical school, including an internship, and often an extended residency.

The bill also reminds us that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance plans must include, reimburse and not discriminate against health care providers operating within the scope of their license, including integrative (naturopathic) physicians. Of course, all N.D.’s know that didn’t exactly get implemented in the way it was intended. But, be aware folks that the new health care law does have that specific language.

This resolution has been long awaited by N.D.’s and their patients. The next logical paving stone would be to require Medicare to reimburse naturopathic doctors. In my practice, I have a significant number of older patients on a limited budget who pay out of pocket for my services rather than see a Medicare approved practitioner.

I encourage you to go to http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/sres135/text to read the full text of the bill, which outlines the reasons that naturopathic physicians should be approved as primary care providers and reiterates the non-discrimination language that was originally written into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.