DC FLI Puts AANP in the Vanguard for Medicare Inclusion
Mike Jawer, AANP Director of Government & Public Affairs
130 AANP members visited 130 congressional offices on April 30th, pushing for NDs to be included in Medicare and for Congress to recognize Naturopathic Medicine Week in 2014
Monday, May 12, 2014
by: Mike Jawer, AANP Director of Government & Public Affairs

Section: State and Federal Advocacy

This year’s DC FLI, AANP’s annual legislative conference, attracted NDs and students from 42 states who are committed to advancing awareness of naturopathic medicine on Capitol Hill.  The primary goal was to acquaint lawmakers and their health staffers with the value of naturopathic medicine for seniors, who are often beset with a variety of chronic conditions.  The federal Medicare system pays vast amounts for their symptoms to be controlled, often through prescription drugs that many seniors take concurrently.  If NDs were included as primary care physicians in Medicare, however, seniors’ use of multiple medications would be reduced, with consequent health improvements for older Americans and reduced cost for the taxpayers who fund Medicare.  This was the message that AANP members took to Capitol Hill. 
Bolstering that message were the results of an independent Web survey of seniors, which found that 55% of older Americans in states that license NDs would consider seeing a naturopathic physician for their health care needs. While just 23% of those respondents said they would visit an ND if they had to pay the cost out of pocket, 96% said they would visit an ND if Medicare were modernized to cover naturopathic care.  Participants in the DC FLI delivered written highlights of this survey to Members of Congress; they also presented fact sheets on the value of having NDs included in Medicare.  AANP is seeking to have a bill introduced that would do just that. 
The effort may take some time to achieve success, but that makes it no less worthwhile, noted speaker Jon Plebani, from the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.  Plebani’s firm has been retained by AANP to assist with lobbying strategy, and he offered the wise perspective of a seasoned Washington hand.  Persistence, cultivating relationships with the right congressional supporters, and building the case with like-minded groups will ultimately win the day, he observed.
FLI participants also asked legislators to cosponsor AANP’s resolutions to make October 6-12, 2014 Naturopathic Medicine Week.  Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (Del-DC) and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) have introduced H. Res. 508 and S. Res. 420, respectively.  Rep. Matt Salmon, a conservative Republican from Arizona, has signed onto the former and Sen. Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat from Iowa, has signed onto the latter – demonstrating that support for natural health and prevention is a nonpartisan issue. 

The FLI offered plenty of opportunity for participants to hone their ‘elevator speech’ and rehearse their talking points before going up to Capitol Hill.  Dr. Jaclyn Chasse anchored a presentation called “The Perfect Pitch” in which she highlighted the importance of making an emotional connection with legislators and health care aides.  Conveying why an ND is driven to do what she or he does is far more vital than merely expressing what the ND does.  This point was echoed by Marge Kilkelly, senior policy advisor to Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who emphasized that NDs have a remarkable story to tell.  Approaching a legislative staff person as one would a patient – with earnestness, candor, and intent to educate and uplift – is the way to make a positive impression, she advised.
The program also celebrated the Maryland Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ breakthrough accomplishment of licensure for NDs.  Three of the state legislators who were the bill’s strongest supporters were honored with AANP’s “Legislative Champion” award, and two of them – Delegate Susan Krebs and Delegate Nathanial Oaks – took part in a lively and wide-ranging conversation with MDANP’s outgoing president, Dr. Emily Telfair.  They explained that, prior to being approached by MDANP four years ago, they knew nothing about naturopathic medicine, but the association’s persistent ‘courting’ and willingness to answer any and all questions brought them (and their colleagues) around.  “Your NDs were knowledgeable, credible, and available,” said Del. Krebs.  “Every question that was asked, they had an answer for.  I realized, Hey, this is good medicine.  I actually believe this is the future of medicine.  Ten years from now, we’re going to look back and ask, Why was [licensure] a battle?” For Del. Oaks, the differing tactics taken by NDs and MDs cemented his support.  “MedChi [the state’s medical society] didn’t understand naturopathic medicine and didn’t want to understand,” he said. MDANP invited them to many different educational sessions and site visits, but “they didn’t go.  They didn’t want to share a piece of the pie.  Our MDs,” he concluded, “need to learn from our NDs.”
Other noteworthy talks were presented on “NDs and the Future of Primary Care” (Dr. Lorilee Schoenbeck) and “The Unexpected Benefits of Association Membership” (Dr. Christine Girard).  Dr. Kristaps Paddock surveyed state variations in scope of practice, and NDs from several states offered updates on their licensure and scope modernization efforts.  The FLI was also preceded by a meeting of AANP’s State Alliance, which featured 4 separate breakouts on topics ranging from Section 2706 (the portion of the Affordable Care Act mandating that insurance companies include licensed practitioners in coverage) to lessons learned from the licensure battle in Maryland and how to use social media to advance awareness and advocacy efforts.
The FLI concluded with AANP’s popular Whole Health Reception on Capitol Hill.  The event attracted a continuous stream of Members of Congress and healthcare staff, who learned about naturopathic medicine by mingling with AANP members, gathering information from tabletop displays, and sampling an array of healthy foods and snacks.  Congresswoman Norton was officially presented with AANP’s Congressional Champion Award and spoke of the growing need for naturopathic medicine in the nation’s health care system.  Congressman Salmon also spoke glowingly of the profession, drawing from his family’s personal experience with NDs.
The DC FLI is an indispensable part of AANP’s goal of making naturopathic medicine ever more a part of public policy considerations.  The program turns on ND and student enthusiasm to meet their elected representatives and serves as a proving ground for the next generation of NDs to speak for the profession.  This year’s FLI was eminently successful – and next year’s will be even more so.  If you want to help with our Medicare or Naturopathic Medicine Week goals or help lay the groundwork for the FLI in 2015, please contact the AANP staff.
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