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A
lternative and Complementary Therapies
 

Ten Most Commonly Asked Questions About Alternative Medicine

© Michael Alan Morton PhD, Mary Morton

Still, there is hope, as ever-increasing numbers of insurance companies are taking a serious look at the importance of covering alternative medical treatments in their health policies. Mutual of Omaha now covers chiropractic, Prudential pays for acupuncture, and Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska offers a plan entitled "AlternaPath," which covers licensed naturopathic doctors. Also, a growing number of hospitals and HMOs are including alternative medical services in the treatments provided for their patient-customers.

Prevention magazine's New Choices in Natural Healing says the most comprehensive insurance plan covering alternative medicine today is American Western Life Insurance Company of Foster City, California. Ayurveda, homeopathy, nutritional counseling, massage, and physical therapy are all covered in their Wellness plan. The company includes a full-time Wellness Line with naturopathic doctors "on call" for their customers.

The Wellness plan costs 20 percent less than their traditional plans, because, says Wolf Klain, president of American Life, "We believe very strongly that if people do take care of themselves, if they take preventative measures, it's only going to save us all a lot of money in the long run."39

We suggest contacting your health insurance representative to get the facts on possible reimbursement for alternative medical treatments. If it turns out that your plan is "biased" against reimbursement for alternative medical treatments, we encourage you to shop around and find a plan that is better suited for your health needs.

Insurance plans covering alternative medicine are growing at a surprising speed. One successful HMO, Oxford Health Plans, is over one million members strong in the New York Metropolitan area. They surprised the industry by heavily committing themselves to covering preventive medicine using alternative medical techniques. Although their alternative medical plan is still in development, other HMOs are watching to see if this commitment will eventually turn into profits for Oxford. If so, we can only anticipate that more HMOs will follow in Oxford's footsteps.40

Also, if you live in Washington state, you are in luck. Washington now requires that all health insurance companies cover all licensed and certified alternative practitioners. Although Washington is the only state in the union to pass such a law, it is possible that other states will follow suit.41

9. Will alternative medicine work for me?
No system of medicine can guarantee success for every condition. Each system of medicine has certain health conditions for which it is best suited and some health conditions for which it would be the treatment of last choice. This is true for conventional medicine as well as alternative medicine.

An example is Chinese medicine, which has a long and respected history of treating conditions of infertility and impotence in less drastic and more natural ways than conventional medicine. Many couples who were unable to conceive have become happy parents after receiving a series of treatments of Chinese herbs and acupuncture for their condition.

The key to success with alternative medicine is to make sure you have all the accurate information you need from around the world about treating your health conditions. It can also get you information on how to "live well" while living with your health condition, thus embracing life. By doing Step One as outlined in this book, you can be assured of finding the right alternative medical treatment for your health care needs if one exists. Becoming familiar with good research from throughout the world on your alternative medical choices increases your chances of getting the results you want.

10. Is there a way for me to responsibly seek out good alternative medical care for myself and my family?
The five steps described in the upcoming chapters is the best answer to this question. By participating in Steps One to Five, you can responsibly and wisely choose good alternative medical care for yourself and your family. Whether you are just beginning your exploration of alternative medicine or you have been using alternative medicine for some time, following these five steps will allow you to make good decisions about any modality of medicine. And incidentally, in most cases, by following the five steps, you can save time and money, too.

The Five Steps are:

Step One: Learn Your Options - Add to your M.D.'s recommendations by researching the latest resources to get all your treatment options.

Step Two: Get Good Referrals - Find referrals through various sources and verify that these referrals have the capability to really help you.

Step Three: Screen the Candidates - Make use of an alternative practitioner's staff to get reliable information about the provider and how they work.

Step Four: Interview the Provider - Ask the provider all the pertinent questions to know if you can confidently work with this professional.

Step Five: Form a Partnership - Maximize your healing potential by developing an active alliance with your alternative health care provider.

Each of these steps - and how to do them competently - are outlined in the next five chapters of this book. When used together, they form a process that will lead you through the maze of alternative medicine to the results you desire.

There is one important point to consider in order to use this book to your best advantage. For all of us, our relationship to our own health is an ever-changing process. Health care needs alter as we mature and grow and live life. As a result, these five steps, as well as the chapters in Part II, will be useful to you in different ways as your needs change in their focus and intensity.

For instance, if you are in a health emergency, diagnosed with a life-threatening or debilitating disease, your motivation for gathering all the relevant information and finding just the right health care provider will be significant. You will want to be thorough in both gathering and evaluating information because you won't want to miss anything important - like the key to your relief and/or remission.

In a serious health care crisis, doing each detail of all five steps in this book will serve you well because each step is designed to be as complete as possible. Each step is presented so that you see "both sides of the coin" - so that you don't miss any important details, thus compromising your ability to get the health results you really need.

On the other hand, if you have a minor health care complaint, such as a digestive problem that is at the very worst annoying, you probably won't need to complete all of the recommendations in each of the five steps. You might not have the motivation, the need, or the time to check every information resource regarding digestion, gather a full list of referrals, and ask every pertinent question of the staff and the provider.

However, if a friend had great success with relieving her digestive complaints through an N.D., and you would like to try this provider but really don't know much about naturopathic doctors, parts of this book will be helpful to you. The chapter on naturopathic doctors will familiarize you with the naturopathic philosophy of medicine, typical treatments used by N.D.'s, what happens on a first visit, and N.D. associations and professional groups. After skimming through Steps One through Five you might get some ideas about how to partner with this provider. Perhaps you'd like to check that the N.D. graduated from an accredited college. Verification that this provider is qualified, along with other details you learn about N.D.'s, will help you feel more comfortable on your initial office visit, as well as assist you in making the most of your time with this health care professional.

Whatever your particular needs when using this book, we encourage you to use it in the way that is best for you. It is not necessary to do every suggestion in this book for every health care need you'll have. Pick and choose. Do what you need to do to get the health care results you want.


Notes

1. NIH. Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993), 183.
2. "Mapping Medicines Movements," Vegetarian Times, October 1994, 78; William Collinge. The American Holistic Health Association Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine (Warner Books, 1996), 42–43.
3. Mark Kastner and Hugh Burroughs. Alternative Healing: The Com- plete A to Z Guide to Over 160 Alternative Therapies (Halcyon Pub- lishing, 1993), 3.
4. Bill Gottlieb. New Choices in Natural Healing (Rodale Press, Inc., 1995), 4.
5. Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH, Volume III, Number 1, 3.
6. American Demographics, July 1993, 16.
7. Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH, Volume III, Number 1, 1.
8. Burton Goldberg. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (Future Medicine Publishing, 1993), 15.
9. Norman Cousins. Personal interview, January 1990.
10. James F. Fries, M.D. and Donald M. Vickery, M.D. Take Care of Yourself (Addison-Wesley Co., 1989), 116.
11. Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D. "The Case for 'Natural' Medicine," The Nation, September 6/13, 1993, 242.v
12. Burton Goldberg. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (Future Medicine Publishing, 1993), 5.
13. Bill Gottlieb. New Choices in Natural Healing (Rodale Press, Inc., 1995), 3.
14. NIH. Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993), liv.
15. Ibid, xiv.
16. Ibid, xiv.
17. Ibid, xv.
18. Ibid, 2.
19. AMA Resolution #514, "Alternative (Complementary) Medicine," Reference Committee E, 10–11.
20. Fact Sheet #1, "Alternative Medical Courses Taught at U.S. Medical Schools," The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Alternative/Complementary Medicine. 21. "Unconventional Claims," Vegetarian Times, October 1995, 27.
22. Deirdre O'Conner, N.D. The Naturopathic Model of Primary Care Natural Medicine. Presentation at "Integrating Managed Care & Alternative Medicine," San Francisco, CA, December 1,1995.
23. David Eisenberg, M.D. "Unconventional Medicine in the United States," New England Journal of Medicine, January 28, 1993, 246. 24. Burton Goldberg. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (Future Medicine Publishing, 1993), 450. 25. William Collinge. The American Holistic Health Association Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine (Warner Books, 1996), 40.
26. Martha Ullman at the National Center for Homeopathy.
Personal communication, July, 1996.
27. Donald J. Brown, N.D. The Use of Herbal Medicine in a Clinical Setting. Presentation at "Integrating Managed Care & Alternative Medicine," San Francisco, CA, December 1995.
28. B. Hayes. U.S. "Survey of Insurers." Government study, HEW as reported by The American Chiropractic Association, Arlington, VA, November 1995.
29. Bill Gottlieb. New Choices in Natural Healing (Rodale Press, Inc, 1995), 3.
30. David Eisenberg, M.D. "Unconventional Medicine in the United States," New England Journal of Medicine, January 28, 1993, 246.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid.
33. Ibid.
34. John Weeks. "Charting the Mainstream: A Review of Trends in the Dominant Medical System," Townsend Letter, PortTownsend, Washington, February/March 1996, 38–39.
35. Len Wisneski, M.D. Personal interview, September 1989.
36. Joe Jacobs, M.D. Personal interview, November 1995.
37. NIH. Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993), xiii.
38. Andrew L. Shapiro. We're Number One (Vintage Books, 1992), 4,16, 22, 25, 27, 28.
39. Bill Gottlieb. New Choices in Natural Healing (Rodale Press, Inc, 1995), 7.
40. Hassan S. Rafaat, M.D. Integrating Alternative Medicine into the Mainstream: the Answer to an Ailing Health Care System. Presentation at "Integrating Managed Care & Alternative Medicine," San Francisco, CA, December 1995.
41. Washington State, House Bill 1046, 1995.

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