Illinois should join the list of naturopathic health-provided states

By Hayley Devitt

I predict that 2013 will be an important year for naturopathic and complimentary, alternative and integrative medicine (CAM) health providers as more recognition is brought to these services.

I hope this will be the case since next year the bulk of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes effect, which means access to naturopathy will likely be covered by insurance in the 16 states licensed for it.

CAM is a classification for health practices that include acupuncture, nutrition and midwifery.

Like naturopathy, which is a system of care targeted on promoting health via natural and science-based treatments and therapies, CAM is an alternative to hospitalization, surgery and pharmaceuticals.

What we call alternative care is the trusted, centuries-old norm in other countries. Although conventional medicines and surgery are sometimes the best option, natural treatments should not be disregarded just because America has a prescription habit.

With the way our health culture is now, a body’s wellbeing is only given attention as soon as someone gets horribly sick, and then with an automatic tendency toward procedures and pills. Nutritionists and herbalists, on the other hand, work with patients individually in an ongoing process of disease prevention.

This might still seem questionable to some, but people in every state should at least be afforded the choice to treat their ailments with naturopathic doctors and CAM specialists.

Most would agree that painful, invasive diseases and operations are expensive and better avoided, so we should have the chance to live a preventive lifestyle and treat our bodies before something bad happens.

When maladies do arise, it is important for the public to know there are other options leading to recovery; whether they would benefit more from natural or conventional care varies by case.

With ObamaCare, naturopathy and CAM health care will be put on more equal footing with conventional medicine.

However, Illinois is not currently licensed for naturopathic care. This should change so we may reap its benefits.

According to the Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians, their licensure is actually in the public’s best interest. With it, NDs will receive professional training in their fields.

Licensure will also establish a good working relationship between medical professionals. As I said, there are some cases in which either naturaopathic or traditional medicine will be the most effective, and naturopathic doctors would be able to refer patients to medical doctors and vice versa. NDs will also have studied conventional medical science.

What my prediction for 2013 stems from is Section 2706 in the health reform law. It states that insurers “shall not discriminate… against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider’s license or certification under applicable State law.”

As long as this clause is known and recognized, I call it an important step in equalizing medical and naturopathic health providers.

This and the progression of state licensure will aid in Americans’ access to natural and integrative care.