Naturopaths gaining coverage under Medicaid

Correction: Medicaid, not Medicare.

Does allowing coverage for naturopaths help ease the shortage of primary care doctors for low-income citizens? Or is licensing alternative practitioners an all around bad idea?

State’s Medicaid program now covers naturopaths | The Seattle Times.

Washington state officials approved naturopaths under Medicaid along with Oregon and Vermont.

As states that expanded eligibility under the Affordable Care Act see the number of newly insured people on Medicaid steadily increase, naturopaths say they can help address nationwide concerns about doctor shortages.

“The profession is still too small to entirely fill that gap of primary-care providers, but we’re one of the answers,” said Jud Richland, CEO of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Naturopathic medicine focuses on prevention and overall health primarily through the use of natural therapies, though naturopathic doctors in Washington can write prescriptions for many traditional medications, like antibiotics, as well.

The concerns are many for those who recognize that a naturopath does not have the same training as a medical physician. The training they DO have is pre-scientific, focusing on the four humors. The Science-based medicine blog calls it a cult. The foundation of the field is an idea of a “vital force”. Many are anti-vaccination. Some claim to be able to cure cancer. Or, they prescribe dietary treatments for serious diseases. These are not recognized effective OR safe. None of these were mentioned in this article.

Naturopaths can’t cure serious disease but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. Also they can ask for many unscientific, implausible tests and treatments that we know just DO not work.

More: Naturopathy and science « Science-Based Medicine.

From Naturowatch: A Close look at Naturopathy.

Naturopathy, sometimes referred to as “natural medicine,” is a largely pseudoscientific approach said to “assist nature”, “support the body’s own innate capacity to achieve optimal health”, and “facilitate the body’s inherent healing mechanisms.” Naturopaths assert that diseases are the body’s effort to purify itself, and that cures result from increasing the patient’s “vital force.” They claim to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes by ridding it of waste products and “toxins.” At first glance, this approach may appear sensible. However, a close look will show that naturopathy’s philosophy is simplistic and that its practices are riddled with quackery.

Why is a naturopath NOT equivalent to a doctor with regards to education? Again from Naturowatch:

The quality of medical school programs is vastly superior to those of naturopathic schools. Medical school faculties are much larger and better trained, and the scope and depth of clinical experience are much greater because people going to medical school clinics encompass the full gamut of disease.

Much of naturopathy’s coursework embraces practices—such as homeopathy—that have zero validity.

Some naturopathic graduates take an additional year of postgraduate training where they work in an outpatient setting. However, most go directly into practice. Nearly all medical school graduates undergo 3-6 years of additional full-time specialty training that includes work with hospital inpatients.

There is no doubt that some naturopaths are better than others and some are solid Quacks. So is this the answer to more first line medical care? I don’t think so at all. Yet naturopaths are vehemently trying to push licensing in all states and coverage under Medicare and attempting to be recognized as equivalent to medical doctors. One uses ancient (outdated, incorrect and magical) thinking as a basis for treatment, the other uses modern science based findings. Which is better? Settling for a weak imitation of medicine will not save money in the long run. What we need is a better system of well-trained providers that can treat common, mild conditions with sound science-based treatments who are also capable of judging when serious conditions require greater expertise and specialists.

Tip: Thomas Proffit

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  8 comments for “Naturopaths gaining coverage under Medicaid

  1. Travis
    May 26, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    This is alarming. you’re right to point out that it won’t save money long-term…

  2. Brian
    May 26, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    Great. Now Medicare quacks come in 2 flavors.

  3. Yodel lady
    May 27, 2014 at 12:30 AM

    It’s important not to confuse Medicaid with Medicare. This article is about Medicaid, the program for very low-income people. The states have to fund much of the cost of Medicaid and most states are very tight-fisted about it. Medicare is a federal program which provides medical care for people over 65 and for younger people who are disabled. I think Medicare is not acknowledging naturopathy so far.

    My opinion — no way should Medicaid or private insurance pay for naturopathic treatments. At best it’s useless and at worst it sets people up for real medical problems which real doctors will eventually have to address.

    • May 27, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      Thank you so much for spotting this error. I’ve corrected it.

  4. Karin
    May 27, 2014 at 2:53 AM

    I wish they would nip this at the bud. Not going to happen though. If U.S. doesn’t have enough real doctors to treat all the suddenly insured poor people, maybe the medical association needs to stop artificially limiting the number of doctors who can practice to keep prices high. Doctors don’t have to be wealthy, god damn. But I digress. It seems they are trying to offload the newly insured poor and possibly ignorant on quacks. This is upsetting.

  5. Bill T.
    May 27, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    What a scam, get ecognized as allowable by government programs, the uneducated and/or gullible mistake that for actual validation. I’m unimpressed with the “well, we have to give the people the choice to select the care they want” for that very reason.

  6. May 27, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    The headline is inaccurate. It’s Washington state’s Medicaid program that’s begun covering naturopaths. The article says that it’s one of three states to do so. Naturopaths want to be covered by Medicare, which is a separate program, but aren’t currently and let’s hope won’t be.

  7. May 27, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    This may seem picky, but could someone advise Jann Bellamy that it’s “deity” (not “diety”) in the otherwise excellent article “Naturopathy Embraces the Four Humors” posted December 27, 2012 (33 Comments) . Comments were closed, otherwise I’d have posted a private note. (see link “focusing on the four humors”). One of the great things about legitimate reporting, not to mention science, is the ability to go back and fix errors.

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