Obamacare to destroy medical freedom and alternative medicine?
Obamacare to destroy medical freedom and alternative medicine; Goodbye acupuncture, herbs & vitamins?
Welcome to the post-alternative medicine world!
© By Peter Barry Chowka
During the past three decades, alternative medicine - the use of herbs, nutritional supplements (vitamins), special diets, acupuncture, homeopathy, and more - has been embraced by the American public. Studies have found that 38 percent of American adults have actually used some form of alternative medicine. It has been so successful because of the climate of medical freedom in this country - unique in the world - which has been in effect since the time of the Founding Fathers.
As an aside, Dr. Michael Savage was a researcher and a leading author in this field (particularly nutritional and herbal medicine) before becoming a radio talk show host in 1994.
Alternative medicine is a case history in the
potential of the free market - a case history in American freedom. But in
recent years, the federal government has started to play a bigger role in
alternative medicine, and has twisted it and stunted its growth. They have
watered it down and renamed it "complementary alternative medicine"
(June 15, 2009, updated 6-16-2009) For about
five years now, I have had the unenviable, depressing, and largely solitary
task of documenting the gradual disappearance of alternative medicine from the
American clinical landscape. (Its flourishing hybrid offshoot,
On June 12, 2009, the U.S. press reported that President Obama wants a universal health care bill on his desk by this coming October. The Democrats in Congress are promising to give it to him. Such legislation will forever change, for the worse, the practice of medicine including exponentially expanding the role of the anti-alt med federal government. It will also force all Americans for the first time to carry conventional allopathic medical insurance, whether they want it or not.
Now, consider that alternative medicine, like many innovations in medicine as a whole, has been able to grow and thrive in recent decades because people have had the ability and choice to pay for it themselves, almost exclusively out of their own pockets. Many people who are of independent mind and who are better educated have chosen not to invest in conventional medicine, including bloated insurance for conventional drug-based medical care that they don t want. Instead, people often direct their personal resources to healthy lifestyles and primary prevention (such as organic food, nutritional supplements, etc.) and to non-toxic, traditional, unconventional, or alternative treatments when they become ill.
Soon, when all Americans (except those who can prove poverty to a government apparatchik) will be required to pay thousands of dollars annually for conventional medical insurance, the ability to choose alternatives will be severely if not totally impaired.
Beyond the coming conventional allopathic insurance mandate, which will make not carrying government -approved health insurance a violation of the law, the plans for universal health care proposed by President Obama and the Democrats will severely restrict freedom and choice in many areas, including the availability of medical alternatives. Already, for example, government policies have resulted in the almost total disappearance of a once thriving area, alternative cancer therapies.
Now, the government is proposing not only to pay for more conventional health care for everyone including up to 30 million illegal immigrants, at a cost that may run into the trillions of dollars, but to expand its control of the practice of medicine to its very core, at every level of clinical practice, public or private.
The theory of Obama, the Democrats, and the left wing/socialist policy wonks they follow is that all medical care in the U.S. needs to be studied more rigorously, with clinical options that supposedly work and are the most cost effective identified (by evidence based medicine ); doctors can then be pressured into using the therapeutic options (specific drugs and so on) that the bureaucrats anoint, citing the evidence. According to this rationale, waste will be eliminated and better care will be guaranteed. This new statist Holy Grail of scientism is called comparative effectiveness. It will replace the traditional centuries-long autonomy of the free market-oriented doctor-patient relationship that is based on individual care.
Current plans for universal health care will severely restrict freedom and choice in many areas, including the availability of medical alternatives.
This unproven new evidence-based scheme is
largely modeled on one-size-fits-all socialized medicine in the
NICE, which has been around since 1999, has been
embroiled in controversy in the
"Will not pay for certain complications related to care that it deems negligent, such as a bedsore or a postoperative wound infection. In the Obama scheme, adherence to designated standards of care, which would be easy to monitor online, is likely to quickly become part of insurance reimbursement. The practice standards would rest on that other pillar of reform, comparative effectiveness."
Then there is the issue of electronic medical records (EMRs) which Obama is demanding that every American buy into. EMRs are a linchpin of any statist universal health care/reform scheme and are an Orwellian nightmare. (I have written about the dangers of EMRs and evidence-based medicine here and here.) It should also be obvious that any clinician who is doing anything that might be considered alternative or unconventional can easily be monitored and identified (and reigned in, prosecuted, or worse) when the government has instant electronic access to the detailed personal history of everyone s health status and his or her previously private medical treatments.
The non-partisan Institute for Health Freedom
"There has never been a more important time than now for health-freedom advocates to speak up. Our nation is facing its most important health-reform decision ever: Mandatory or voluntary health insurance?. . . For health-freedom advocates, the key issue we should focus on is freedom of choice. The Founders and many heroes fought hard over the years for our independence and freedom, and we should continue to cherish and preserve those precious values. To that end, we should make sure everyone is free to choose his or her health insurance and opt out of any mandatory scheme altogether, thereby maintaining the freedom from being coerced into a limited choice of plans dictated either by government or the private insurance industry. Also, all should be free to maintain confidential patient-doctor (and other provider) relationships. And no senior should be forced to give up his or her Social Security benefits for refusing to join Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). This is especially important when a bill now in Congress (H.R. 2520) would require biometric identifiers for all Medicare beneficiaries." [emphasis original]
On June 10, 2009, the Associated Press (AP) distributed an Impact feature article, highly relevant to this topic; it was widely republished all over the world. Individual news outlets and broadcasters put their own titles on it, two representative examples being Alternative medicines shown to be ineffective after $2.5 billion in tests (the New York Daily News) and $2.5B spent, no alternative med cures (Yahoo! News).
The dateline for the article was
Not only that. Adding insult to injury, the article quickly launches a secondary theme, one that is increasingly popular in mainstream medical, and government, circles - the purported scientific implausibility of much of alternative medicine:
The government also is funding studies of purported energy fields, distance healing and other approaches that have little if any biological plausibility or scientific evidence.
Taxpayers are bankrolling studies of whether pressing various spots on your head can help with weight loss, whether brain waves emitted from a special master can help break cocaine addiction, and whether wearing magnets can help the painful wrist problem, carpal tunnel syndrome.
The acupressure weight-loss technique won a $2 million grant even though a small trial of it on 60 people found no statistically significant benefit - only an encouraging trend that could have occurred by chance. The researcher says the pilot study was just to see if the technique was feasible.
Various critics of alternative medicine are quoted, including the first director of the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), the NCCAM s predecessor, Joseph Jacobs, M.D.
The AP article is accurate is far as it goes. As usual, however, the subjective truth of the matter lies somewhere in the complex gray area that is not covered - one that remains between the lines of the story.
As one who was present as an invited participant
and advisor at the start-up of the Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992, none
of this news is surprising, especially as I look back with 20/20 hindsight at
what has happened since then. I have written numerous articles about the
ultimate futility of the NCCAM s work, focused as it is on
The fact is that most of the government s research on primary alternative medicine treatments, going back to the 1970s, seems to have been designed to disprove alternative medicine. Examples include numerous flawed studies on vitamin C and cancer, an area pioneered by, among others, two-time Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling, Ph.D. (1901-1994). The system is little more than a permanent kangaroo court, with alt med proponents perpetually in the dock. Even winning two unshared Nobel Prizes, like Linus Pauling did, is not enough.
Awhile back, I viewed a camcorder recording that
I had made in September 1992 at the big launch of the Office of Alternative
Medicine at a three day Alternative Medicine Workshop conference at the
If only his advice had been followed...
An epiphany during a late night mainstream media broadcast:
As occasionally happens, insights and epiphanies
can come when one is not expecting them. In the early morning hours of June 11,
2009, I switched the cable TV channel to Fox News, the most-watched cable
television news network in the
At that moment, the topic under discussion was Government issues reality check on herbal, alternative remedies.
Greg Gutfeld: It turns out herbal and alternative health remedies are actually bunkier than something really bunk. It s true! The government has been testing these pseudo solutions for the past ten years at a cost of almost $2.5 billion dollars and has found that almost none of these things work.
Cynara Coomer, M.D.
Gutfeld then turned to one of his guests, a striking blonde woman who looked like a Fox News anchor but in reality was, according to Gutfeld, the hottest doctor on the planet, Cynara Coomer, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon and professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Gutfeld: Were you surprised to learn that these alternative remedies were a bunch of claptrap?
Cynara Coomer, M.D.: Yeah, a lot of them are, absolutely, but some of them are not. Some of them should be combined with regular medicine or conventional medicine, as we know it, but, yes, some of them are so bizarre that, yes, it s a shame that people actually wind up wasting their money on what they re reading on the Internet. . .
Gutfeld: The media likes to paint these holistic cures as something noble or helpful, when, really, they re just faddish and stupid.
Coomer: Right. . . To be in [conventional] medicine right now in this day and age and the treatments that we can offer to, to our patients - it's exciting because we can see a tremendous amount of difference. And so that's why it actually is a shame for, for me to have my patients say, "You know, I think I want to go seek out some alternative treatment", or they wanna look up some other diet that they think is, is going to be their sole treatment or their sole cure for their disease. Yeah, that s tough to live with.
This silly segment went on for about six
minutes, and by the end of it, I realized that the government's $2.5 billion
investment in testing alternative medicine that began seventeen years ago
had actually achieved quite a lot - in a way that was originally unexpected by
alt med proponents. That is, it had achieved a lot for alt med's critics,
including big government, big Pharma, the medical-industrial complex, etc.
These days, as far as the federal budget goes, $2.5 billion over 17 years is a
relative pittance. As a comparison, the
New England Journal of Medicine reported in an article on August 17, 2007 that
Nation's Restaurant News reported on April 11, 2005, meanwhile, that the 2003 advertising budget for the fast food giant McDonald s Corporation was $1.21 billion. For only twice that amount, alternative medicine has now been effectively dissed for all time, supposedly disproven by science and removed from discussion as a serious clinical option.
And most conveniently, this flawed finding has
landed just as the nation is about to upend its entire medical system with
government-run universal health care. Pie in the sky Obama followers
(proponents of complementary alternative medicine who post comments like Obama
is in my view a wonderful president are typical) outnumber realists in the
complementary alternative medicine world by at least 100:1. They continue to
hold out hope that evidence can somehow be mobilized to prove
Based on my long experience, and on common sense, I would venture to say, however, Think again.
Peter Barry Chowka is a
writer and investigative journalist who writes about politics, health care, and
the media. He is a regular contributor to American Thinker.