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"Obama-care" and Woo

by Stephen Propatier

July 31, 2013

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Donate The Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as "Obamacare" is approaching its main implementation phase in 2014. This is the United States first foray into socialized healthcare. The law is a political hot potato. There has been political opponents, vociferous advocates, and fear of the unknown. Most of the issues are political or economic. My issue with this legislation is the big leg up to the alternative/complementary medicine community.

One clause of the health law in particular -- Section 2706 -- requires that insurance companies "shall not discriminate" against any health provider with a state-recognized license. That means a licensed chiropractor treating a patient for back pain, for instance, must be reimbursed the same as medical doctors. In addition, nods to alternative medicine are threaded through other parts of the law in sections on wellness, prevention and research. Naturopaths, acupuncturists etc would have the same rights to bill insurance as your medical doctor. Assuming that your state licenses them.

This provision was authored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "Patients want good outcomes with good value, and complementary and alternative therapies can provide both.". Sounds good to the uninformed but Alt. Med is the medical opposite of that.

In my opinion "Alternative Medicine" is not medicine at all. It is re-marketed quackery that is neither a "Good Value" nor "Complementary". Monetary support for unproven and useless "medical" treatments is financially and medically foolish. Obamacare will put a financial squeeze on the US healthcare system. There is no benefit adding non-sense to the cost portion of the equation.

This type of law is exactly why I have been opposed to licensing Alternative Medicine practitioners. Political advocates support licensing and regulating them for "Safety". Their best arguments say that legalizing Alt Med would give some measure of control. Historically licensing and regulation of Alt. Med. is a bad idea with unintended negative consequences.

Naturopathy seeks approval for recognition as PCPs in all 50 states. In some states they already have this ability. Naturally I oppose this. There is no published evidence that Naturopathy works or is backed by science. Despite the overwhelming negative evidence naturopaths insist that their treatment is effective. It is a good example of why licensing is dangerous. Insistence of benefit, despite good evidence to the contrary, is not good medicine. It should not be called medicine at all. In licensed states naturopaths self-regulate standards. Better known as no standards. Licensing will not limit Alt Med providers it will give them false legitimacy.

This legislation will force funding of a useless treatment modalities. All of the United States will have to pay the freight for someone else's belief in nonsense. If this represents "Universal Healthcare" count me out. Ironically this provision will probably be good for my profession and it's reimbursement issues. Removing the only economic barrier for Woo frankly it is not worth it.

I foresee a dramatic down spiral in the quality and quantity of science based medicine. If you take money away from physicians and hand it to quacks. You are going to end up with fewer Medical Doctors and many many quacks.

At the federal level this battle is pretty much over. It has to be dealt with at the state and local level. We need to demand scientific standards, make state laws reflect medical science, not magic. Stop legislation seeking to license "alternative" providers. It is the only way to put a stop to this now.

To get this legislation passed President Obama had to give away too much. We will now have to pay for it. This political deal is similar to a variation of Aesop's fables. The Scorpion and The Frog. Sen. Harkin is the scorpion and we are the frog.
One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.

The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.

Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"

"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.

"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"

"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"

"Alright do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.

"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"

So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.

"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog's back.

"I could not help myself. It is my nature."

Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.
I will be away from internet access for the next few days. I am helping final production of SGU's new web series Occ The Skeptical Caveman. So Please be patient with comments held by the moderator. Wish us luck. You can see the Pilot here.

by Stephen Propatier

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