May 16-22 is Naturopathic Medicine week and therefore the perfect time to shine a light on the important role naturopathic medicine practitioners play in the health and wellbeing of Arizonans. It’s also a great opportunity for the public to learn about what their local naturopathic physicians are doing to improve access to care and expand insurance coverage for all.
The Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association is the professional organization of naturopathic doctors in the state of Arizona. Their mission is to ensure the growth of naturopathic medicine in the state and country by working year-round to expand access and coverage for patients. AzNMA aims to create opportunities for naturopathic physicians to thrive by providing education for physicians, providing referral and public relations services for members, and promoting a legislative agenda that defends, supports and expands the ability of NDs to practice in Arizona.
As Arizonans pursue better, healthier and more fulfilling lives, it’s important for people to educate themselves on evidence-based and cost-effective integrative, complementary and alternative therapies available. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the U.S., in 2007, $33.9 billion was spent out-of-pocket on complementary and alternative medicine, making up 11.2% of all out-of-pocket spending on health care. Additionally, 38.3% of all adults in the U.S. use complementary and alternative medicine.
Despite the increasing demand, the insurance coverage has remained very minimal. Although naturopathic physicians have been licensed by the state of Arizona since 1935, currently only 22 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have licensing or registration laws for naturopathic doctors. This patchwork of licensing continues to be an obstacle to health insurance and Medicare coverage. Expanding licensure to all 50 states is an important issue for the health care industry.
Another primary goal of naturopathic doctors is to pursue legislation that offers equal opportunities for their doctors regarding employment, reimbursement and scope of practice. They have set a precedent of legislation that protects patients, encourages high-quality physicians, and improves the practice of medicine for integrative providers. Physicians that specialize in naturopathic medicine are in high demand and patients will travel around the globe searching for these innovative treatments.
How can patients or people who are interested in receiving naturopathic medicine help AzNMA’s fight to expand coverage and care? They can support the mission by speaking up and letting their insurance companies know that they would like them to provide coverage for care by a naturopathic physician. If insurance companies hear from enough patients, they will get the message and begin to take action. To learn more about AzNMA, its physicians and its mission to improve naturopathic care, visit aznma.org.
Editor’s note: Dr. Kristen Bishop is an Apache Junction-based naturopathic physician and member of the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association, a professional organization of naturopathic doctors in the state of Arizona. The vision of AzNMA is to ensure the growth of naturopathic medicine through recognition and education.