ANH-USA strongly opposed the healthcare bill for a variety of reasons. Our lead concern was that it reduces freedom of choice in healthcare.
Now that the bill has passed by the narrowest of margins, we are evaluating legal options to try to overturn it. We are seeking to coordinate our actions in this regard with respected professional medical groups.
We will also continue to monitor the bill closely. The next step will be administrative rulemakings to decide how it will actually be implemented. As vast as the bill was, the rulemaking will no doubt fill many more pages and presents endless opportunity for behind closed door deals or mischievous interpretations. We’ll continue to work to mitigate the damage caused by the healthcare bill and will keep everyone informed.
Although we strongly and very actively opposed the bill and continue to do so, we were also involved in helping to shape portions of the healthcare bill that we knew would pass, whether during healthcare reform or at a later date via another legislative vehicle.
For example, everyone knew that Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) was a non-negotiable item for both President Obama and Congress. So we worked to ensure that any system created to fund and evaluate medical treatments would at the very least recognize and include natural and integrative medicine. Working with key members of the Senate, we helped modify the bill to include at least one integrative healthcare practitioner on both the CER board and advisory panel. This marks the first inclusion of integrative medicine in any federally designed program. We were certain that even if the healthcare bill did not pass, CER would be passed in some form, so the modification we achieved was crucial, because the CER board will be tasked with essentially defining the future standard of medical care.
Unfortunately, even with integrative medicine included in CER, the healthcare bill was completely unacceptable. By allowing the Federal government to define what health is and what health insurance is, and then backing this up with the mandated purchase of government approved insurance, at penalty of fines and even jail, the government is unwittingly opening the way for special interests such as drug companies, medical device manufacturers, and the AMA to complete their takeover of medicine. Meanwhile, alternative forms of medical care will become much more expensive, if they are available at all.
Every day it becomes clearer that real medicine must be preventive in nature, with an emphasis on diet, dietary supplements, and lifestyle. The healthcare bill, to its credit, discusses prevention. But the definition is tailor made for drug companies that want to sell more drugs and equipment makers who want to sell more test equipment.
Our specific concerns with the healthcare bill include the following:
- Electronic health records – All qualified health-benefits plans are required to use electronic health records set up in such a way as to gut your privacy and jeopardize doctors’ use of integrative therapies. The plan also includes unique health plan identifiers – each of us will now have a cradle to grave unique ID number that will track medical history. Thanks to the electronic health records mandate, this information will be available with the click of a mouse.
- Cost-Sharing is prohibited for preventive services. A strict reading of the definition of “cost-sharing” may prevent out-of-pocket payment for medical services that are supposedly “available” under qualifying health insurance. This means that you may not be able to pay privately for what you want but is not specifically covered under the policy. This kind of restriction already exists with Medicare. If you want more than Medicare provides, it is illegal for your Medicare doctor to provide it.
- Mandated healthcare coverage – You can no longer choose the healthcare options that work best for you. You must now purchase coverage that is defined by the government. Individuals who do not have or buy this qualifying coverage will be taxed on their annual tax return. And, of course, those that fail to pay their taxes will go to jail.
- Catastrophic and similar packages will no longer be available to anyone over the age of 30 (or to anyone at all based on the House bill). These packages have enabled people to buy natural healthcare on their own while still being covered for major medical. This vital option will disappear for many of us.
- Cap on Flex-Spending Account (FSA) contributions at $2,500 – This is another way to make natural medicine more expensive for consumers.
- Medicine Cabinet Tax – Americans will no longer be able to purchase over-the-counter medicines with their FSA, Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA).
- Increase in the non-qualified HSA distribution penalty from 10 percent to 20 percent. This makes HSAs less attractive and paves the way for HSA pre-verification.
- Likely long-run elimination of HSAs – The bill is confusing about HSAs, possibly intentionally so. The real intent may be for them to disappear completely because they won’t be able to comply with mandated policy requirements.
- The bill also uses various “smoke and mirrors” ways of appearing to pay for healthcare reform, but we will leave that part of the story for the financial experts.
The battle over the shape of healthcare goes on and ANH-USA will fight for consumer freedom of choice, the practitioner’s right to practice, and for natural and sustainable forms of healthcare.