Naturopathic doctors want insurers to cover their services

Naturopathic doctors (NDs), who emphasize a holistic approach to healthcare, hope that more insurers in California start covering their services, which they believe can help address the predicted shortage of primary care physicians, according to the California Health Report.

Since naturopathic services aren't currently covered by plans sold on the California state health insurance exchange, the holistic doctors are pushing to be included. And the issue is likely to emerge as a nationwide matter, particularly with experts predicting a doctor shortage due to population growth and an aging population, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For example, naturopathic doctors are qualified to perform certain procedures and check-ups, including well-woman exams, and if insurers reimbursed them for these services, more consumers would seek them out.

"In terms of annual exams, preventive care, chronic disease management, NDs are filling a gap," despite not being covered under insurance, Jacqui McGrath, a naturopathic doctor, told CHR.

The holistic providers say they can perform most of the same services as primary care doctors. "We do some things that are different, but we do the same: I order the same complete blood count, chem panel, lipid panel, blood sugar, thyroid testing, I can prescribe medicines," Aimée Gould Shunney, a naturopathic doctor in Santa Cruz, California, told CHR.

However, a primary reason why many insurers don't cover the alternative care is that naturopathic doctors can't prescribe medications unless they're supervised by a medical doctor. That means patients of naturopathic doctors needing meds would also have to see a conventional provider.

But it's possible if insurers intend to cover NDs, it may lower healthcare costs. For instance, Harvard Pilgrim decided to cover naturopathic doctors who practice in New Hampshire last year, a decision that had the possibility to cut healthcare costs by 30 percent, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. 

To learn more:
- read the CHR article