Choice in healthcare- including alternative medicine practices

        I was a surgical resident in NYC in 1974 and I had a cold. A friend, an audiologist, gave me a large green herbal capsule and told me to take it. "But, is it FDA approved?" I snorted.

"Just take it!" she said.

The next day my cold was gone. Incredible! "Why wasn't this in my medical school curriculum?" I wondered. That was the beginning of my slow fall off the edge of the earth. Now I have a holistic practice where we go for the least expensive, safest form of treatment, including nutrition, herbs, homeopathics, as well as pharmaceutical prescriptions. We use elegant tests that uncover the underlying causes of illness, instead of "sweeping it under the drug". Chronic illness only exists for so many people because it is so lucrative for a few.

I sincerely hope that, by supporting "choice" in healthcare, our President really means prevention of illness, treatment of causes instead of symptoms, and coverage of treatments which, although provided by licensed practitioners, are not paid for by insurance. At least please protect us from the fear of our state licensure boards, who have persecuted alternative practitioners for a hundred years. We need a new Flexner report* that focuses on assessment of the present system from a fiscal and humanitarian point of view, not just the "scientific". Let's discover together what really works.

I sincerely believe that we can provide much better healthcare, at a far lower cost, by addressing the reasons people get sick

We in medicine have been taught to first make a diagnosis. A patient presents with a constellation of symptoms, we search the history, examine the patient, order tests, review our past experience with such a presentation. Then we attach a diagnosis. This is how people get labeled. Then this diagnosis (read label) is attached to an ICD-9 diagnostic code. So now a patient's problem has been compressed into a three to five digit number. A clerk at the insurance company matches the diagnostic code to the requested tests or treatments. If they match, fine. If not, - claim denied.

Underlying causes frequently do not have an ICD-9 code. For example, yeast overgrowth (intestinal candidiasis) is not a "reimbursable" diagnosis, yet millions of people have it. Stress is not a reimbursable diagnosis, nor is environmental toxicity, or other real problems that people suffer with.

Non-pharmaceutical treatments - nutrition, herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, - are not usually paid by insurance. IV therapies that detoxify the body, or introduce essential nutrients in patients who are nutritionally depleted are not paid. We need to encourage, not discourage, non-toxic natural supportive treatment (either instead of, or along with conventional treatments) of everything from heart disease to cancer. Coverage, tax credits, other creative incentives should be used to encourage inexpensive preventive and supportive forms of treatment. This will rapidly bring down health care expenditures by thwarting life-threatening events that are very costly. These integrative treatments often halt disease progression. They save lives without making people sick. There is a huge body of published literature to support this proposition, but not in the medical literature. It's published in nutrition journals, herbal and energy medicine literature. Let's look at that, as well as the pharma dominated medical literature.

I have high hopes that the President is listening. If you have an opinion to register on this subject, please comment on this post. Send a copy of your post to [email protected]

* The Flexner Report was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation and completed in 1913 by Abraham Flexner, an educator. It was the foundation of "evidence-based medicine" that led to the dismantling of alternative health care in the US.

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