Hope for Health Care Reform

When Obama announced his plan to overhaul healthcare last year, I was on board. Formerly among the uninsured, I often wished aches, pains and fever away rather than suffer through our shoddy public health care system. I’ve watched dismayed as what I’ve felt to be the meat of the bill (hello, PUBLIC OPTION), watered down to something indecipherable. So, with the Senate’s passing of health care reform on December 24th I joined the chorus of questioning voices that asked, “What’s in this bill and how does it affect me?” Among the chatter of talking heads and swirl of confusing commentary, a shining light emerges. The American Herbal Products Association dug through the 2,074-page tome to find something worth discussing. I interpret some of their findings below.

  • Supplements with health claims approved by the Secretary (think calcium for osteoporosis, soluble fiber for coronary heart disease, folic acid for neural tube birth defects, etc.), may be included in a pilot program for “wellness plans.” Though this does not extend to supplements with “qualified health claims,” (when the FDA neither objects to nor approves a claim) the inclusion of supplements at all seems to advocate a more integrative approach toward heath. Check out the full list of approved supplements here.

  • The bill prohibits discrimination from insurance companies toward any licensed health care provider. Meaning? Alternative practitioners may now be part of insurance programs, particularly in states where they’re not currently included.

  • Complementary and alternative medicine providers will be part of a National Healthcare Workforce Commission that will, among other things, improve healthcare at local and state levels. The AHPA notes, “The explicit inclusion of CAM within the workforce definition provides opportunity to strengthen the role of CAM in national healthcare.”

While these provisions are encouraging, none of these sections were included in the House-passed health care bill. Will they survive the House-Senate conference? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. What’s your take?

Kelsey Blackwell recently joined the staff of Natural Foods Merchandiser as their senior editor. This will be her first job to offer health care benefits in 5 years.

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