There are two provisions of the current Senate health care bill (S.1679, Affordable Health Choices Act) that promise to increase costs and put patients at risk by ignoring science.
First, insurance companies (and taxpayers, assuming that the bill applies to medicare, medicaid, and any new public option) would be required to reimburse Christian Science practitioners. (S.1679, Sec. 3103 (D) and IRS Publication 502).
In 1986, 2 1/2 year old Robyn Twitchell died of a bowel obstruction when his Christian Scientist parents hired a prayer practitioner instead of a doctor. The parents were convicted of manslaughter, but under this law, the practitioner would be reimbursed for the deadly work. Several other children have died under similar circumstances in recent years.
Secondly, insurance companies would be forced to reimburse licensed practitioners whose approaches are ideological rather than scientific. (See Sec. 411 (i) (2) (A) and Sec. 2713). The bill specifically includes “doctors of chiropractic... licensed complementary and alternative medicine providers.” Many, though not all, chiropractors claim that all disease is caused by misalignment of the spine. There is good evidence that chiropractic can be effective for treatment of pain in the lower back. There is no good evidence for any other benefit. Many chiropractors recommend regular “treatments” for healthy people, including infants, on an indefinite basis. It is hard to imagine how health care costs could be contained with reimbursement required for such unnecessary manipulation.
Naturopathy is an example of a licensed “alternative medicine” provider. Vermont and 15 other states license naturopathic doctors. The fact that these states offer licenses to NDs implies legitimacy, but in fact all state requirements are controlled by naturopathic doctors themselves. NDs write and score the exam, control the colleges who offer training (there are only five in the United States, and all teach only nonscientific modalities) and advise the Secretary of State. Nowhere in the process do states ask: What is the scientific evidence for efficacy? Under the proposed Senate language, naturopaths in Vermont would be reimbursed for such practices as reiki, homeopathy and craniosacral therapy, none of which have either a credible rationale or any scientific evidence for support.
Let Senators Sanders and Leahy know that healthcare costs will increase and patient health will suffer if insurance carriers and taxpayers are forced to pay for useless ideological approaches. There is only one way to determine the safety and efficacy of a medical treatment: science.