November 23, 2010

A Natural Shift

Growing interest in alternative health care is changing the way patients,
 insurers and lawmakers view naturopathic doctors. 

Dr. Cora Rivard, left, a Derry-based naturopathic physician, helped patient Catherine Turgeon of Meredith unravel a series of ailments that had plagued her for years without a diagnosis from traditional physicians. 
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- For eight years Catherine Turgeon of Meredith lived on antihistamines, the closest she could come to finding relief from chronic sinus infections and allergy symptoms.
In an act of desperation, she sought the help of Dr. Cora Rivard, a naturopathic doctor in Derry, who wanted to review Turgeon’s blood test results over the
 eight years she’d been chronically ill. Rivard came up with a prognosis that required one more lab test, confirming Turgeon had hyperthyroidism caused by two tumors growing on her parathyroid gland. 
Since having the tumors removed surgically, Turgeon is finally feeling like her old self again. 
“I feel like I owe my life to Dr. Rivard. She helped diagnose something that was eluding the regular medical practitioners. They were treating my symptoms without looking for the problem. 
If not for her, I don’t think I would have had an answer, or any relief,” said Turgeon. 
Although it’s difficult to put a price on good health, Turgeon said opting to see Rivard was the best investment in her health she could have made, despite the fact that Rivard's services — and most alternative treatments offered by naturopathic physicians — are not covered by medical insurance. 
That may soon be changing. 
In New Hampshire, the growing interest in alternative care and in particular, the trend toward naturopathic physicians, has prompted a call for legislation that would allow their services to be covered by insurance premiums. 
State Rep. John Cebrowski, R-Bedford, is the primary sponsor of a bill in the works that would bring parity to health care by including naturopathic physicians, said Cebrowski. 
“This is one of those bills that shouldn’t be contentious. There will be a lot of questions associated with costs, but not with the medicine side of it — everyone understands that this is something consumers want, and in our conversations with the state’s six major insurance carriers, there has been no push back,” said Cebrowski. 
“There is no question in terms of qualifications. This is an honorable and growing field here in New Hampshire, but as we know, it’s all private pay, which doesn’t give consumers a choice — and many consumers are looking for alternatives,” said Cebrowski. 
According to Dr. Jaclyn Chasse, a naturopathic doctor with Northeast Center for Holistic Medicine in Bedford, and president of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors, there is huge public demand for holistic services, which include clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine and counseling. 
“We’re constantly being asked if our services are covered, and now the answer is that we’re working on that,” said Chasse. 
She explained that 15 years ago the state hammered out a law governing the licensing of naturopathic physicians, which says that only practitioners who have gone through the proper accreditation from a four-year medical school, passed their national boards and attended 3,000 supervised hours of patient care training with both medical and naturopathic physicians can be licensed. 
“There is a lot of misinformation out there about naturopathic doctors, and rightfully so. A lot of people in other states aren’t licensed but still call themselves naturopathic practitioners — even in Massachusetts, being a naturopath doesn’t mean the same as it does here in New Hampshire,” Chasse said. 
Because naturopathy centers on nutrition, and nutrition plays a pivotal role in many chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, depression and heart disease, there is a growing body of evidence that combining naturopathy with traditional medicine can actually be a cost-effective way for patients to regain their health, Chasse said. 
“Naturopathy provides about a 30 percent cost savings in the treatment of those diseases, which is a huge number when you’re talking about medical costs in the millions and trillions of dollars,” Chasse said. 
Just 15 years ago there were about 10 naturopaths in New Hampshire; now there are 70 licensed naturopathic doctors, and the number is growing. 
Chasse stresses that naturopathic doctors have a place within the matrix of medical care. Ideally, in the near future there will be a health care system in which crossreferrals can be made based on what a patient needs, and the care provided will be accepted for coverage by insurance companies, even if that treatment includes nutritional supplements or medicinal herbs. 
“With the national health care crisis, we’re hearing more of a shift toward wellness and prevention — and we’re the only primary care doctors trained in that. We’re more educated in nutrition than someone with a master’s degree in nutrition, that’s training we do on top of our primary care training,” said Chasse. 
Many people don’t realize that the first four years of training for your state ND license mirror that of a medical doctor, with identical training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, coupled with a variety of natural therapies, all based in basic nutritional principles. 
Turgeon said in working with Dr. Rivard to maintain her good health, she’s made drastic changes to her diet. 
Giving up pasta and sugar were tough — but they were changes warranted based on her blood work and symptoms, changes that have also drastically improved her quality of life. 
“Yes, I wish this kind of care was covered by my medical insurance, but until it is, I view it as an investment in my future health. I can either spend the money now to get my body in control, or I can spend it in the future on expensive medicines and procedures,” Turgeon said. 

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