Election Notes: Health Care Reform
Jurisdictional arguments contributed to the demise of former First Lady, Senator Hillary Clinton's health reform effort. At this time every Chairman with a role in health legislation is developing legislation.
Senator Ted Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education. Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee has been laying the groundwork for universal health reform while recovering from treatment for a brain tumor. AANP and its friends are working diligently to have the legislation incorporate alternative options to conventional care.
Because there is a strong link between the economy and health care costs, Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced a comprehensive framework for reform. Senator Baucus plans to meet with Senator Kennedy and ranking member of the HELP committee, Senator Mike Enzi, as well as Senator Grassley ranking member on Finance. Senator Baucus has also spoken with President-elect Obama regarding his priorities for reform.
The House is in the middle of a power struggle for the Chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Current Chairman John Dingell, D-MI, is being challenged by Henry Waxman, D-CA. That disagreement should be resolved by the end of the week. Congressman Waxman has very strong sentiments regarding the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, none of which will work to the benefit of consumer access to supplements.
AANP is monitoring legislation relating to the use of Electronic Medical Records, which could be a central piece of future reform efforts - or could once again move forward as stand-alone legislation.
It is safe to say that no definitive action will be taken on health issues in Congress until the 111th Congress is sworn in and all of the Chairs meet to determine who has what authority. It is a very good time to make an appointment with your Member at his or her home district office and talk about including naturopathic doctors in the public health system.
AANP is working with the sponsors of two other "wellness" bills to garner their support. We are positioning ourselves to move the message contained in H.Con.Res. 406 into the next Congress. More than 60 national associations will consider supporting this effort at the meeting of a large coalition next month. H.Con.Res. 406 is being presented to the National Foundation of Women Legislators, representing elected officials from states across the country, this week. Support of this resolution could stand as the foundation of state health care reform efforts, which will play a key role in the national effort.
The Presidential Transition is underway, with a major focus on determining the Obama leadership team. AANP is moving quickly to take our message of health and wellness to the Hill and the new Administration, and we are strengthing the case by building coalitions. Discussions are being held with other groups regarding what an actual proposal would look like for legislators. We are also discussing the opportunity to create a new category of provider that would enable naturopathic doctors to participate - regardless of how Medicare/Medicaid currently define "doctor." Our belief is that it is essential every consumer has the option to access licensed providers of natural health services in a wellness model.
You too can offer your thoughts to the Obama Transition team! Dr. Gary Piscopo forwarded this link to the AANP giving EVERYONE an opportunity to submit their thoughts.
Have you written your Member of Congress and congratulated him/her on re-election? Do it now. Naturopathic doctors are not recognized by the federal health offerings and everyone must step up to ensure all health care reform efforts serve the needs of your patients. Introduce naturopathic medicine to your Member today!
Karen E. Howard
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians