The job of IHPC’s Federal Policy Committee is to:
- Educate Congress and other policymakers about the benefits of integrated healthcare, and the importance of making it available to all Americans;
- Foster policy that gives all Americans access to safe, regulated, integrated healthcare; and ultimately
- Transform the very architecture of the US healthcare system so that it is patient-centered, focused on health promotion and disease prevention, equitable and collaborative.
Right now we are working on important initiatives including:
- Legislation that will give Americans access to all qualified health care professionals. This will be transformational, and it is actively supported by a broad coalition of consumers and professional associations spanning the full spectrum of conventional, complementary and alternative healthcare professions.
- A consensus conference on CAM and integrative treatments for chronic pain, particularly chronic back pain. Chronic pain is an enormous problem in the US, both in cost to employers and taxpayers, and in human suffering. Conventional medicine, while miraculous in some domains, has been relatively unsuccessful in treating chronic back pain and other similar conditions. Yet, research indicates real promise from treatments such as therapeutic massage, chiropractic medicine, yoga and more. The IHPC is committed to seeing that people with chronic pain get coverage for the therapies most likely to alleviate this pain.
- Documentation of the extent to which current federal healthcare programs discriminate against CAM professionals. A legislative champion has asked the Congressional Research Service to do this research.
- Bringing CAM and Integrated Health Care into key conversations on how to reduce health care disparities.
It’s a big job! How will we do it?
- Collaboratively—The IHPC has always been about collaboration. We convene meetings of diverse stakeholders to distill the best thinking on complex issues in healthcare delivery. We build broad collations to support our legislative initiatives because we represent the interests of all healthcare providers and consumers who want integrated care.
- Fearlessly—Transforming the architecture of US healthcare may sound grandiose, but it is what is required. And we do it by looking at what really impedes integration in the current system. Successes to date include:
- In 2003 we convened an historic series of meetings with representatives of the American Medical Association and Alternative Link (now ABC Coding) to discuss issues of concern regarding billing codes for CAM therapies. We knew there were significant gaps in the available code sets that hindered proper reporting and even the full practice of integrative and CAM therapies. The development of codes properly describing CAM services requires representation of CAM professions on the committee setting the codes. This consultative process resulted in the appointment of two new CAM seats on the AMA’s CPT Advisory Committee.
- Starting the conversation to change the way healthcare practitioners are trained. The National Education Dialogue to Advance Integrated Healthcare (NED) was an historic event which opened conversations between disparate healthcare professions about how tobreak down the isolated silos in which they were educating future practitioners. The NED initiated personal and inter-institutional collaborations which continue to build today.
- Tirelessly—A behemoth like the US healthcare system does not transform quickly. Bringing our initiative requires perseverance. That is what IHPC provides because IHPC takes on the big issues.
- Establish a Federal Office of Integrated Healthcare (FOIHC) focused on health promotion and disease prevention to coordinate the huge tasks of transforming the healthcare system.—Creating an integrated healthcare system is a broad mandate that requires coordinating myriad policies, statutes, and diverse federal agencies. A complex objective such as this requires the leadership and authority of an office devoted solely to that goal. The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Healthcare echoed this recommendation in their final report. They said,“Recommendation 29: The President, Secretary of Health and Human Services, or Congress should create an office to coordinate Federal CAM activities and to facilitate the integration into the nation’s health care system of those complementary and alternative health care practices and products determined to be safe and effective.”
- Significantly increase federal research allocations for health promotion and disease prevention, and examine the role of complementary, alternative, and integrated approaches in these areas. In healthcare research the gold standard is the randomized controlled double-blind clinical trial conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a particular treatment for a particular condition. But this is not the only kind of information we need. We also need research that tells uswhich approaches can help prevent problems before they arise(e.g., prevent or moderate today’s soaring rates of obesity and diabetes), and what kind of healthcare delivery can promote more robust (and lifelong) health.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States ranks 24th among nations in terms of our population’s “healthy life expectancy,” a term WHO uses to refer to the number of years you can expect to live a healthy life. Isn’t that what we want? Not just a long life, but a long healthy life! “The position of the United States is one of the major surprises of the new rating system,” says Christopher Murray, MD, PhD, Director of WHO’s Global Programme on Evidence for Health Policy. “Basically, you die earlier and spend more time disabled if you’re an American rather than a member of most other advanced countries.” (http://www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-life.html). At IHPC we believe that this can be changed with an integrated approach to healthcare that gives people access to approaches that emphasize wellness and prioritize prevention of disease through the patient’s lifetime. Research will help us identify the most effective methods and types of preventive and treatment strategies.
- Assure widespread access to CAM/IHC in rural and underserved communities. Some patients in the United States have access to any form of healthcare they want, while others do not. One aspect of access is cost. We need policies that ensure that healthcare access is not limited by economic status. Another aspect of access is geography. Equal access to quality integrated care depends also on provider availability. While we have federal programs that encourage doctors of conventional medicine to practice in rural and underserved areas (by repaying some of the medical school costs if they do), such programs are not generally available to the many other healthcare providers necessary to a comprehensive system. Legislators and policymakers are increasingly concerned about nurse and physician shortages in the United States. An integrated system that includes not only allopathic physicians, but naturopathic and chiropractic physicians, doctors of acupuncture and Chinese/Oriental medicine, and a host of other skilled healthcare practitioners could help eliminate healthcare disparities.
- Ensure that all qualified healthcare providers can practice to the full extent of their licensed scope of practice. Scope of practice is an important issue in health care. Healthcare providers should be licensed to do the things that they are well trained to do. However, there is a long history of territoriality in the United States, with some professions seeking to keep other professions from being allowed to practice as trained. This does not serve the public or the nation’s emerging healthcare needs. IHPC is proud to work with the Coalition of Patient’s Rights in an effort to stop the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Scope of Practice Partnership (SOPP) that various physician organizations have formed in an effort to prevent licensed and qualified healthcare practitioners from using the full range of their healthcare skills and training.