Medicare Coverage for Naturopathic Physicians is Here… Sort Of…
DAN LABRIOLA, ND, PEng
The news is good! The number of insurers offering naturopathic coverage with Medicare products will expand significantly with this year’s open enrollment.
The lack of Medicare coverage has been an obstacle for elderly patients needing naturopathic care and a financial challenge for our profession. There are about three hundred million Medicare patients per year that the naturopathic profession cannot treat. This is especially concerning given that naturopathic medicine frequently offers the only effective care for many of the maladies of the older population. I started my clinical practice focused on geriatrics, and I never turn patients away who cannot afford care, but providers should get paid fairly.
Historically, Medicare has been resistant to accepting naturopathic physicians for fear that it would increase their financial burden, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite having had two NDs on the Medicare Board of Trustees over the years, the agency never came around.
Myself, some well-connected brokers, and others, started prodding the insurers to add us to their Medicare plans since they already had naturopathic doctors on their commercial rosters. While I can’t say that we are the reason, a few insurers started adding naturopathic coverage, and this year, there are many new offerings. CMS rules prohibit me from listing participating companies in print, but these policies are being made available to brokers as we speak.
We need to get the word out. Many brokers don’t know about this, so I am contacting all of my present and past patients with the announcement and referring them to a broker who will direct them appropriately. This must happen before the end of open enrollment, which is soon. I’d be happy to share what I know (including contact information for the broker I am using). Just call or email me at [email protected] or 206-784-9111.
This is a great opportunity, especially for the newest naturopathic doctors, to grow your practice.
Dan Labriola is a naturopathic physician practicing in Seattle at the Northwest Natural Health Specialty Care Clinic. His was the co-principal author (with Dr. Les Griffith) of the naturopathic law in Washington state, written at a time when the profession was being deregulated. He has been active in the profession including past president of the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past Board of Directors member of the AANP, Principal Investigator in clinical research, a pioneer in integrative medicine including being on staff and a medical director at large hospital systems, respected author in major scientific journals, Director of Safe & Sound® VitaQual® nutritional supplements for naturopathic physicians and a long-term supporter of the naturopathic profession.