California Naturopathic Physicians Seek Coverage for Their Services
Naturopathic physicians in California are working to expand their scope of practice and have their services reimbursed by insurance plans sold through Covered California, HealthyCal reports (Flynn, HealthyCal, 11/3).
Background on Naturopathic Medicine
In January 2005, California became the 13th state to license naturopathic doctors (California Healthline, 1/20/05).
According to NIH, naturopathy is listed as a specialty under "complementary and alternative medicine." It includes services such as:
- Chiropractic care; and
- Meditation (HealthyCal, 11/3).
The field also encourages a healthy diet, exercise and avoidance of drugs (California Healthline, 1/20/05).
Naturopaths receive four years of training and are qualified to provide check-ups, well-woman exams and other services, according to HealthyCal. However, their services often are not covered or reimbursed by health insurance.
Dhurga Reddy, chair of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association's insurance committee, said naturopathic physicians can prescribe medication only under a supervising medical physician.
Seeking Coverage of Services
Naturopathic physicians are urging lawmakers to adopt state legislation that would add four services to their scope of practice, including:
- Directing allied health professionals, such as nurse practitioners;
- Performing joint manipulation consistent with their training;
- Performing minor in-office procedures that are consistent with their training, such as removing moles for biopsy; and
- Prescribing certain medication without supervision.
They also are calling for their services to be included in coverage sold through Covered California.
Traditional Physicians, Regulators Voice Concerns
However, some physicians and regulators say naturopathic doctors lack sufficient training to provide primary care that is equivalent to that provided by traditional physicians, HealthyCal reports.
For example, Yvonne Choong -- senior director of the California Medical Association's Center for Medical and Regulatory Policy -- said physicians and naturopathic doctors are taught different material in school. She added that unlike naturopaths, most physicians also complete three to seven years in a residency program (HealthyCal, 11/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.