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 Naturopathy: Why Naturopathic Medicine is a Bargain - even if your Insurance doesn't Cover It! 
People are always asking us whether or not naturopathic medicine is covered by insurance and, if if isn't, "Why not?" We hope that this information will be thought-provoking and will inspire you to take a serious look at your health care choices and consider naturopathic medicine as an option for you, if you have not already done so.

Is naturopathic medicine really that different from orthodox medicine?
The answer is an emphatic "yes". l) A naturopathic doctor looks at you as a whole, unique human being. Orthodox medical doctors generally address only your immediate complaint and generally do not link it with the rest of your health. 2) Naturopathic medicine is based on the principle of "Vis Medicatrix Naturae", the healing power of nature. We believe in each organism's ability to heal itself. When, for one reason or another, the organism is not able to do this effectively, we use the most natural and least toxic stimulus possible to lead the body in that direction. As naturopaths, our goal is to work with the organism's inherent healing process rather to against it (as do antibiotoics, antifungals, anti-inflammatories, etc.) 3) Naturopaths believe that, for healing to occur, one must live according to the laws of nature. We encourage you to eat well, exercise, and live in harmony with the environment. This is quite different from someone who receives two coronary bypass surgeries without being told to stop smoking or give up meat.

Are naturopaths really doctors?
Naturopathic physicians attend four years of naturopathic medical school. We use the same textbooks as in orthodox medical schools. We learn the same techniques of physical diagnosis and send our patients' blood and Pap smears (if laboratory testing is required) to the same labs. We are licensed in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Con-necticut, Arizona, Washington D.C., Alaska and hope that number of licensed states will increase. Naturopathic doctors can, however, practice in nearly every state.

What kinds of conditions do naturopathic doctors treat?
We treat acute and chronic illnesses of nearly all kinds. Naturopathic doctors treat everything from acne to athlete's foot, asthma to arthritis, headaches to hay fever, dandruff to depression, flus to fatigue, ear infections to eczema, strep throat to smoking. Naturopathic therapies are safe for newborns, pregnant women, the elderly...for anybody.

Is naturopathic medicine safe?
The more we hear this question, the more we want to ask, "Is orthodox medicine safe?" Naturopathic medicine is non-toxic. This means that you do not have to worry about side effects. We do not use invasive therapies, so the amount of harm naturopaths can cause is minimal. Naturopathic medicine is so safe that there has not been one malpractice claim against any naturopathic doctor in this country since l984, and the number of graduating naturopaths is growing by leaps and bounds. Those who do not know the depth of our naturopathic medical training worry that we will misdiagnose patients, thereby depriving them of the orthodox interventions they should have had. We have not found this to be true. To the contrary, because we spend so much time with our patients (naturopathic first office calls last from one to two hours and return office calls usually last one half hour as compared to the average five to six minute visit of an orthodox medical doctor), we have found that we are much less likely to misdiagnose. If fact, it is common for naturopathic doctors to recognize problems or conditions that orthodox doctors have missed. We feel that it is much safer to reserve drugs (both over the counter and prescription) for conditions which do not respond to naturopathic treatments. Unfortunately, many people still believe that drugs work best. The more you read, the more you will question this assumption. For example, parents are convinced by pediatricians that they must give their children antibiotics if they develop an ear infection even though studies have clearly shown that antibiotic treatment for childhood ear infections has no better outcome than leaving the child alone. We believe that the fewer drugs and surgeries you receive, the healthier you are likely to be.

How many insurance companies do cover naturopathic medicine?
Unfortunately only about 15 to 20% of our patients are covered by their insurance to see us. The naturopathic associations are trying to change that. We are licensed physicians and should be covered. However, it is an extremely complicated political battle which we have not yet won. In Connecti- cut, all insurance companies cover naturopaths. We hope it will eventually happen everywhere!

Most of our patients choose to see us anyway, insurance coverage or not, and are glad they did so.

How can I afford naturopathic medicine if it's not covered by my insurance?
We would like to ask you, "How can you not afford naturopathic medicine?" Here's our reasoning:

l) Naturopathic doctors charge half or less of what orthodox medical doctors charge. The first visit at most holistic medical doctors' offices, including laboratory fees, may cost you $400 to $1000. 2) Many naturopathic treatments, particularly homeopathic medicines, cost less than a tiny fraction of prescription medication. 3) By using natural, non-toxic treatments, you will avoid iatrogenic (ie: doctor caused) illness. 4) By following the recommendations of a naturopath, you are much more likely to feel better, avoid surgery, and live longer. Just think of how much money lost work time due to surgery, hospitalizations, or poor health will cost you in the long run. 5) You are much more likely to feel that a naturopathic doctor really knows you and understands you as a whole person, rather thinking of you as "a case of flu or pneumonia".

Any tips on insurance coverage?
After much research, we personally chose a company which charges very little, covers naturopaths, and covers only very health people. We are covered for medical emergencies, but chose a high deductible. We put aside each month the difference to use as needed for medical care which falls under our deductible.

Think about your past experiences with health care and you, too, may find that naturopathic medicine is a bargain which you can't refuse!

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206) 774-5599.

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 About The Author
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND, MSWJudyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP, MSW is a licensed naturopathic physician board certified in homeopathic medicine. She graduated with a degree in ...more
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