WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) (www.ihpc.org) announces the launch of its first initiative in consumer health information, a public education and advocacy program entitled CoverMyCare, (www.covermycare.org), designed to create grass-roots support for the full implementation of Section 2706 of the Affordable Care Act, "Non-discrimination in healthcare."
Section 2706, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2014, prohibits insurers from excluding from reimbursement licensed health care providers working within their scope of practice. If fully implemented the law would significantly expand access to integrative health care providers such as naturopathic physicians, massage therapists, acupuncturists, direct entry midwives, chiropractors, (and those licensed practitioners that practice homeopathy) who are represented by the IHPC. The provisions also cover other licensed providers such as osteopaths, optometrists, nurse practitioners and podiatrists.
By educating health care consumers, providers and state officials about the requirements of the law, the CoverMyCare.org website will demonstrate how a broader availability to affordable, safe and effective, integrative health care options can improve care for more patients and will end discrimination against licensed care providers. The site will also raise public awareness of the growing adoption of integrative practices and their beneficial outcomes across US healthcare, a story that remains poorly understood.
Despite the law, for several reasons state officials – who are responsible for ensuring compliance – have been very slow to act on its provisions. IHPC executive director Alyssa Wostrel, MBA, DIHom noted, "An ambiguously worded guidance issued in April 2013 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) interpreted the law in ways that were directly contrary to its intent, causing confusion among some state officials and non-compliance by some insurers. It also appears that many state officials are unfamiliar with the licensed health care providers whose services the law supports, in particular the 350,000-plus complementary and integrative health care providers across the country who are represented by IHPC."
The April 2013 HHS guidance on the provision of Section 2706 was immediately rebuked by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is the author of the legislation. As a result, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee ordered HHS and the Treasury and Labor departments to re-write the guidance. A 90-day public comment period for response to a Request for Information on the law ended on June 10, 2014. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is compiling the results.
The CoverMyCare campaign recently received funding support from Bastyr University and from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) for development of the campaign website. "We are extremely grateful to Bastyr University and to the American Massage Therapy Association for stepping up to serve as the primary co-sponsors of CoverMyCare," Wostrel said. "The website will help health care consumers understand – and proactively advocate for – the provisions of the law that ensure reimbursement when they choose licensed, integrative health practitioners. This can go a long way in helping to end persistent discrimination against these certified and licensed professionals."
Bastyr University (www.bastyr.edu) of Seattle, Wash., is the nation's foremost educational institution for naturopathic medicine. Bastyr Chief of Staff Coquina L. Deger, MBA, called the institution's support for CoverMyCare, “a vital part of ensuring the success of Bastyr University’s more than 5,000 alumni who graduated with a mission to transform the health of the human community. Helping remove potential barriers that could prevent patients from accessing the quality health care our graduates provide will benefit all involved and give clarity to the myriad wellness options available.”
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are currently licensed in 17 states. All licensed NDs graduate from a four-year, doctoral-level program at one of seven federally accredited naturopathic medical schools in North America, and must take and pass national board exams.
AMTA, (www.amta.org) founded in 1943, is the largest non-profit association representing the massage therapy profession. President Nancy Porambo said of its support for CoverMyCare: "AMTA is committed to fair and consistent reimbursement for massage therapists under the provisions of health care reform. Massage therapy is already a respected part of integrated health care in most medical environments, and massage therapists should expect to be included in processes for reimbursement as described in the law.”
An estimated 300,000 licensed, certified or registered massage therapists currently serve in the U.S.
The initial phase of funding for CoverMyCare.org provides for development of the website and social media sites, and for the development of content resources and crowd sourcing components.