Dr. Cheryl Hamilton: Overcoming healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

Overcoming healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level.The resistance shown by the insurance industry to provide benefits favorable to integrative medicine is the greatest healthcare barrier to standardizing all forms of healing modalities. The cost of insurance premiums combined with high deductibles has created a financial roadblock for many patients wishing to include doctors and other practitioners who utilize therapies not covered under their insurance plan.

Even though preventative medicine results in less insurance claims, insurance companies do not pay for the time it takes to educate and support patients regarding healthier diet and lifestyles. Insurance does not pay for the time needed to take a thorough history and exam or to investigate the cause of a symptom. Rather, insurance pays for prescribed medications and surgical intervention for diagnosis established after a 5 to 15-minute office visit. It is unfortunate that we have a healthcare system that makes money by treating disease, rather than preventing it. Traditional healthcare practices have been shaped by insurance. Insurance reform, then, is mandatory for healthcare reform and inclusion of integrative medicine.

Overcoming these barriers

Overcoming these healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level, which is difficult since lobbying is allowed in this country. However, we do have voices in voting and in communicating with our state representatives and senators. We can also make a difference with our pocketbooks by electing to purchase insurance from companies who cover integrative medicine.

Our nationally mandated health insurance must elect to include among its many insurance providers and plans, those that offer integrative medicine as a covered benefit. Insurance premiums, plan coverage, and claims reimbursement must be strictly regulated to allow for fairness in payments. The entire industry – hospitals, practitioners, labs, and imaging facility claims and insurance allowances – must be completely transparent to patients. It is simply unethical for patients to have to guess as to their potential liabilities and coverage.

Most importantly, insurance companies must not have the power to mandate how practitioners treat patients. Sadly, some doctors order imaging studies and labs, recommend treatments, and even schedule their office visits based on insurance reimbursement.

I encourage all of my patients to become active consumers by contacting their insurance companies, practitioners, state representatives, and senators. We must all ask the questions and voice our concerns.

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