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 Action! Your Letter Needed to Turn Congress' Inclusion of Licensed Integrative Practitioners into Law 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Integrator Blog by . View all columns in series
Summary: If you support integrative practice, here are 6 specific reasons to write your members of Congress now. Proposed legislation sits on the desks of members of Congress that, if passed, includes integrative practitioners and integrative practices in federal policy for the first time. While tucked into corners of legislative packages, these advances would be huge. Included are non-discrimination, workforce, medical homes, community health, comparative effectiveness research, and health promotion. Here is information, a draft letter, and how-to link to your members of Congress. We speak of helping shift U.S. medicine. Now is an important time to weigh in.

Integrative medicine practitioner and entrepreneur Richard Sarnat, MD and I recently pounded our skulls about the dismal state of so-called U.S. healthcare reform.

Sarnat is a seasoned veteran whose integrative healthcare initiatives through Alternative Medicine Integration Group, an Integrator sponsor, have included partnerships with health plans, employers and Florida Medicaid. When we spoke, he was not dismayed that 2009's proposed healthcare reform never had the bold transformational energy that the integrative practice community wanted. Nor was he focused on how the Democrats' reform package is stalled if not dead.

  The concept of "licensed integrative
practitioners" and had a significant

national debut in Congress in
2009 reform language.
Instead, Sarnat urged me (and you!) to focus on the important perches in proposed legislation integrative practice gained in 2009. The presence of the concept of "licensed integrative practitioners" and "licensed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners" in the draft legislation is remarkable. (See "Footholds," below.) This has been a significant national debut. Passage into law can be assisted with your support.

Sarnat noted that Congressional leaders have indicated that sections of the legislation including one or more of these phrases may be spun off and passed at any time. Members of Congress need to know there is a constituency that cares about these inclusions. Besides, Sarnat argued, making an impact means perseverance. The habit of contacting our members of Congress is one to cultivate.

Sarnat convinced me. Here is a list of these important footholds together with the link to addresses for your members of Congress and a draft letter. Take 15 minutes. There is no guild organization arguing for "integrative practice" but you! Let your voice be heard.

Contact info for your Senators and your Representative.


Footholds for Licensed Integrative Practitioners and Practices

Healthcare Workforce
Definition of health care workforce includes " ...licensed complementary and alternative medicine providers, integrative health practitioners ..." Sec. 5101.

Healthcare team established by the medical home " ... shall include licensed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners ..." Sec. 3502

This section required that an insurer "offering group or individual health insurance coverage 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."  Sec. 2706

Community Health teams
Interdisciplinary community health teams shall include "licensed integrative health professionals."

Comparative Effectiveness Research
The Board of Governors of a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute on comparative effectiveness research shall include "state-licensed integrative healthcare practitioner" and the advisers "shall include, as appropriate, and as appropriate, "experts in integrative health and primary prevention strategies." Similarly, the types of interventions researched may include "integrative health practices." Sec.1181

National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council
While not directly referencing integrative practice, this visionary approach involves a whole system and multi-agency view of health promotion. Sec. 306 (in June 2009)

Sample Letter to Your Senators and Representative

Contact info for your Senators and your Representative.

Dear [Congressional Representative],
To create meaningful change in U.S. healthcare, we need a cost-saving and health promoting direction. I urge you to protect and advance the presence of licensed integrative practitioners, integrative practices and preventive care in any upcoming health legislation.

In the reform efforts of the last year, these licensed integrative practitioners and approaches gained inclusion in multiple sections of pending health reform.

Forward thinking members of Congress included licensed complementary and alternative practitioners and integrative practitioners in workforce planning. A representative from this practice community is required on the Board of the institute for comparative effectiveness research. Community health care teams and medical homes must include integrative practitioners under these drafts.

In addition, a measure included in drafts which requires non-discrimination among licensed provider types by health plans is critical to allowing these new care teams, approaches and practitioners to function optimally in promoting health in the individuals they treat.

I also urge you to support the creation of the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council. This Council's goals are aligned with the health promoting approaches that attract patients to these integrative practitioners and practices.

These measures will each assist us in moving toward effective disease care and wellness approaches that will get us out of the cost spiral. Please support the inclusion of integrative practitioners and practices in healthcare legislation which reaches your desk.

Contact info for your Senators and your Representative.
Comment: Since Sarnat spoke to me, I have been thinking about how "licensed integrative practitioners" is a category without a guild. More precisely, the terms "licensed complementary and alternative healthcare practitioners" and "integrative practitioners" reflect multiple guilds.

  Integrative practice will benefit most
from an integrative politics, with
multiple guilds and interests pulling
together as a common force.

The former includes chiropractic doctors, naturopathic physicians, acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioners, massage therapists and perhaps licensed midwives. The latter includes this group and, potentially, any conventionally trained and licensed practitioners who fashion themselves as integrative.*

But does any organization take ownership for this category? From a practical political and lobbying perspective, this "integrative" language making its debut on the national scene is still guildless. Groups like the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium and Alliance for Natural Health have advocated components. Associations representing chiropractors and naturopathic doctors have alerted their members to pieces of the proposed legislation.

If we want integrative practices to make a difference, we need to continuously advocate for them. With this language, we will all be advocating for others. We need an integrative politics, with multiple guilds and interests pulling together as a common force. 

* The NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has established precedent here in their interpretation that integrative medical doctors or nurses can meet their requirement for licensed practitioners on their advisory council. 

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 About The Author
Resumes are useful in employment decisions. I provide this background so that you may understand what informs the work which you may employ in your own. I have been involved as an organizer-writer in the emerging fields......moreJohn Weeks
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