The Health Care Law will allow some state licensed or state certified practitioners of alternative medicine in a field that includes chiropractic, acupuncture and massage therapies among some which can be covered.
Ryan Abbott, an associate professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, Calif., whose specialties include health care policy and alternative medicine said that all alternative procedures could not be included.
Advertisement"The non-discrimination provision means health insurance companies can't discriminate against health care providers if they are acting within the scope of their licensure," Abbott said. When a chiropractor is licensed to perform the same treatment as a medical doctor, insurers can't prevent a patient from seeing the chiropractor, whereas they could do so before, Abbott said. "This is likely to have a positive but modest effect on the alternative health care community," Abbott said.
Michael Traub, a member of the Board of the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium based in Conifer, Colo., believes the health care law will be a "game-changer" for the status of alternative medicine. "For a long time, there has been discrimination against alternative health care. This is the first major attempt to reverse that discrimination," he said. "This is going to hugely increase access and utilization of this type of care that really focuses on wellness and prevention and tries to be proactive and prevent serious disease from happening in the first place."
According to Abbott some states have already mandated coverage for acupuncture treatments, while others have mandated a certain number of chiropractor visits. Local practitioners of alternative medicine are not too sure how the new health care law will impact their business. Brian Coleman, a Monroe chiropractor, said he is hopeful that once implemented, the legislation will provide more coverage for chiropractic treatments.
"We are trusting that the new policies will include us," he said. "We are encouraged as a profession that we will be included in the essential benefits when these new policies are written." Carolyne Yakaboski, a naturopathic practitioner feels "there's a lot of gray areas and unclear language (in the ACA).
"More people are looking for complementary medicine," she said. "In natural medicine, we promote health on multiple levels emotionally, physically, nutritionally. As a complementary health doctor, I believe the body has an innate ability to heal itself if you give it the right tools, because health is more than the absence of disease."
Taylor Arbour, a Monroe acupuncturist, felt alternative forms of medicine promote preventive health practices and is less expensive than traditional methods, such as surgery or long-term medications, which is why it would make sense to include them in health insurance coverage. Arbour said he has seen acupuncture provide relief and healing for patients who have not had success with other treatments.
"We have a role to play in relieving the primary care offices and emergency rooms of chronic illness that they're not really set up to treat anyway," he said. "Acupuncture should be considered every bit as legitimate of a health care option as dentistry, occupational therapy or physical therapy."
Sarah Eddington, August 2013
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)