The ACA, in Sec. 5101, provides for a new national healthcare workforce to enter the mainstream healthcare delivery system. They are identified as licensed complementary and alternative medicine providers (CAM) and integrative health practitioners. One of the areas where this workforce is included to practice is Community Health Centers.
The intent of the law was to level the playing field. The big idea is to incorporate those integrative therapeutic disciplines that are safe, cost effective and therapeutically efficacious into mainstream healthcare delivery so as to engage the people in substantive self-efficacy to increase health promotion and prevention. This is the order of the day in the European Union. The US lags behind in implementation, however, recent studies quoted by Bill Reddy, L.Ac., of the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium, note that in the US, all CAM use by adults was estimated to be 36% in 2002 and 38% in 2007. Other sources suggest CAM use between 34-42% of the US population.
Integrative healthcare treatment is associated with significant increases in quality of life, cost savings and increased patient compliance. One study from a Dutch healthcare insurer demonstrated that patients of GP's with additional CAM training (anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy or acupuncture), had up to 30% lower healthcare costs than those without CAM training.
Given the directive of the law of the land to deploy these integrative health providers, Community Health Centers seem the perfect place to begin.
According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation recently released 2012 Profile on Community Health Centers, "as health insurance coverage expands under the ACA and the demand for primary care increases, the role of health centers is likely to increase, and the ACA's large investment in the health center program provides new resources to help meet growing needs."
Medicaid now accounts for close to 40% of health center revenues. With the trend of telemedicine parity bills sweeping the country, Medicaid will cover telehealth visits without requiring an in-office encounter. This is, indeed, the perfect opportunity for choice and access to integrative healthcare through Community Health Centers. Ease of access to their doctor for those people with transportation challenges, movement disorders, complex chronic conditions and financial challenges can now provide early intervention, patient education and information prescriptions that will facilitate the goal of patient-centric, collaborative care set forth in the ACA. Integrative health practitioners have the diversity of disciplines necessary to meet these objectives.
Community Health Centers are poised to be the disruptive innovator in integrative healthcare. We must mobilize the integrative healthcare workforce. Policy implementation is an imperative of the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium. Please visit IHPC.org to view their initiative and progress and to DONATE to this cause.