A growing lobby is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) providers, who have discovered a new opportunity to extract even more money from patients than they do already. They want the government to force insurance providers to pay for quack treatments, regardless of whether or not the treatments work. Any attempt to require evidence, they argue, amounts to discrimination.
Discrimination? Yes! We must not allow the government to exclude health care providers just because those providers don't cure anything. The CAMmers argument boils down to this: we have patients who want our services. The patients like us. In some cases, thanks to lobbying at the state level, we even have state-approved licenses. Therefore insurance companies must pay for our services.
To be specific, the CAMmers are lobbying furiously to try to protect a special clause in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that promises them a fertile new ground for making money from vulnerable patients.
The strategy is simple: require the government to fund any treatment that a patient wants, and dress this up as "patient choice." Then if insurance companies resist paying for ineffective treatments, accuse them of discriminating against the poor, hapless "integrative medicine" providers.
Thus through a diabolical twist of illogic, if Obamacare doesn't cover homeopathy, or naturopathy, or acupuncture, or magnetic energy healing, or any other so-called alternative therapy, it's discrimination.
The mind boggles.
Why is this an issue now? Because, unbeknownst to most people outside the Washington beltway, two pro-CAM lobbying groups slipped a clause into the ACA, section 2706, that attempts to force insurance providers to cover a wide range of quack practices. This section requires that insurers
"shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider's license or certification under applicable state law."Sounds harmless, right? Well, no. This language was added to the ACA by Senator Tom Harkin, after heavy lobbying by the American Chiropractic Association and the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium. In fact, it is virtually certain that lobbyists wrote the section, and Harkin simply inserted it into the law. The IHPC is a lobbying group dedicated to obtaining more government money for homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and a raft of other ineffective medical practices.
Section 2706 opens the door to anyone who provides what they claim is health care - no matter how ridiculous the claim - to file a lawsuit claiming discrimination if an insurance company won't pay for their services. You could start offering dried bird poop for arthritis, call it "avian nature therapy," and if an insurer won't pay for it, you can sue.
Some in Congress have realized how truly bad an idea this is, and just a few weeks ago, a new bill was introduced to get rid of it, HR 2817. The American Medical Association supports the new bill. This has some CAM proponents alarmed.
Over at the Huffington Post, John Weeks, an outspoken apologist for questionable medical practices, offers the predictable, whining claim that this is all about "discrimination" by legitimate health care providers (the big, bad AMA) against poor, defenseless integrative medicine providers.
Make no mistake: this is all about greed. The CAM industry sees Obamacare as a chance to reap huge profits, by forcing insurance companies to pay for ineffective treatments, including many that are wildly implausible.
Homeopaths, naturopaths, acupuncturists, reiki practitioners, energy healers, and other CAM practitioners don't want to subject their methods to rigorous tests of effectiveness. They know that their methods have failed scientific scrutiny, time and time again. So now they want to force health care providers to pay for anything the patient wants. "Our patients believe us," they argue, "so pay us."
Forcing health care providers to pay for anything a patient wants, even if it doesn't work, is guaranteed to drive up costs, without any benefit to patients. Let's ditch this bogus "discrimination" clause in the ACA, and insist that all medical care be held to the same high, scientifically rigorous standards.