Alternative medicine could be part of health care reform

2009-07-28 08:01
Alternative medicine and health care reform

If Senator Tom Harkin (Dem-Iowa) has his way, the new health care reform bill will provide coverage for alternative medicine practices, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, naturopathy, and herbal remedies. The measure cosponsored by Harkin would prohibit health insurance companies from discriminating against health care providers who offer alternative medicine therapies.

Alternative medicine methods are popular in the United States. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which Senator Harkin was instrumental in creating, 38 percent of adults use at least one form of alternative medicine. Among children age 17 years and younger, usage is 12 percent.

The most commonly used alternative medicine practices used by adults in the United States include nonvitamin, nonmineral natural supplements (17.7%; most common include fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, Echinacea, flaxseed, ginseng); deep breathing exercises (12.7%), meditation (9.4%), chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (8.6%), massage (8.3%), and yoga (6.1%). Note that supplements such as individual or multi-vitamin/minerals were not considered alternative medicine.

Many adults turn to alternative medicine for the treatment of painful conditions such as back and neck pain, joint pain or stiffness, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal problems. Other common uses include relief from colds and flu, gastrointestinal complaints, stress, and menstrual problems. Women use alternative medicine methods more than men (42.8% vs 33.5%, respectively).

Senator Harkin notes that alternative treatments are less costly than conventional approaches and can be pursued instead of drugs or medical interventions in some cases, especially the conditions for which many people already use complementary approaches. Alternative treatments have already been embraced by many top medical institutions and medical schools across the country, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine/Center for Integrative Medicine, and the Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Columbia University. More than 75 percent of medical schools in the United States include coursework in alternative medicine.

The alternative medicine amendment cosponsored by Senator Harkin has been adopted by a Senate committee. It remains to be seen whether any or all of the language in the measure makes it to the health care reform bill.

Sources:
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Wall Street Journal Blog
Boston Globe

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Comments

Senator Harkin notes that alternative treatments are less costly than conventional approaches and can be pursued instead of drugs or medical interventions in some cases, especially the conditions for which many people already use complementary approaches.
There is a new online platform that provides people with the opportunity to share information about their alternative medicine experiences. To make this happen, memcatch.com has created an online platform for collecting and sharing real world, outcome-based patient data, and use it to encourage medical professionals to incorporate safe and effective alternative medical practices whenever possible. By having patients voices (experiences) heard others with life changing illnesses’ may be helped. There is also a serious need for research studies by scientific organizations to test alternative healing processes, so that they can be confirmed effective and administered with oversight by conventional medical practice professionals. As noted by Navi Radjou, in an article published in Harvard Business Publishing titled Health Care Reform Should Include Preventive Medicine, “Unfortunately, health care providers and insurers in Western societies do not make the best use of their available resources to support this process and are reluctant to incorporate preventive and personalized programs of treatment. Yet by improving the holistic health and wellness of all American workers and citizens, both governments and corporations could save hundreds billions of dollars currently wasted in untargeted, inefficient therapies.” Peter Sabbagh
It's really important that our reform bill includes alternative medicine. I've seen how acupuncture, meditation and chinese herbs can help people far more than the normal drugs, tests and surgery offered by western doctors. I don't want to be forced to buy an insurance policy that doesn't do anything for me. If it includes alternative medicine then I'm in because it's worth it to me. It's time we as Americans start to take control of our own health. We can start by educatiing ourselves about the benefits of Alternative Medicine and the dangers of medication.
This is incredibly important. I have created a petition on change.org. If you agree please sign it, pass it on. I am in school for CHinese Medicine (Which I didnt think much of 20 years ago) and have seen the efficacy of it and believe in alternative modalities. If we are being forced to have health insurance (I pay more out of pocket for alternative therapies) than we should be made to pay for the ones we use.
Nice to know something like this.