Washington, D.C.—In late March, history was made with the passing of healthcare reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While disagreement continues over whether the changes outlined in the legislature will have negative or positive ramifications, supporters of natural health options are examining the numerous provisions in the legislation that address complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

According to Mike Greene, vice president of government relations at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, “The concepts of prevention and wellness are well represented in the health insurance reform law. Title Four of the Act focuses on prevention of chronic disease and improving public health. Many of the components of a healthy lifestyle—eating well, exercise and proper nutrition (including supplementation)—are reflected in the provisions of this Title.”

Section 4206 includes a pilot program for “wellness plans,” which allow the integration of supplements with “health claims approved by the Secretary.” Examples include the beneficial effects of calcium on osteoporosis, soluble fiber on coronary heart disease and folic acid on neural tube birth defects.

The new legislation also seeks to alleviate the insurance issuance “discrimination” that has existed over the years against CAM healthcare providers. Section 2706 of the law states: “A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not discriminate with respect to the 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.”

This section along with others, such as section 5101 that establishes a National Healthcare Workforce Commission to work within the US Department of Health and Human Services and section 3502 that creates “community health teams” to include “licensed [CAM] practitioners,” will impact holistic medical practices and the natural supplement industry in progressive ways.

Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association, contends, “If managed properly, greater inclusion of alternative practitioners in health care should open a pathway for increased acceptance of the dietary supplement products they provide.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2010