2018-04-05 / Editorial

Legislative health care win demonstrates leadership

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

It’s not often we can say both sides came together for the greater good, but that is exactly what has happened. Democrats and Republicans overwhelming rejected the governor’s veto on my bill, LD 1030 An Act to Require Non Discrimination Policies in Providing Health Care Services.

The Maine Senate voted 32-2 to override the veto and the Maine House followed suit 135-11. This was after a unanimous report from the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. This means my bill now becomes law and will begin impacting policies in January 2019.

The new law will prevent insurance companies from excluding payment for care received from a naturopathic doctor practicing within the scope of their license. This means insurers will have to pay for health care provided by licensed naturopaths, as they would for care given by other licensed providers, such as medical doctors, osteopathic physicians and nurse practitioners.

The law also prohibits insurance companies from charging higher co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for naturopathic care. In addition, insurance companies may not exclude naturopathic physicians from their network on the basis of their training and licensure.

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession that emphasizes prevention, treatment and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent selfhealing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific and empirical methods. For me this is the first step in getting insurance companies to cover alternative treatment. Each person’s health, health care and healing looks different. Our society has an over reliance on pharmaceutical drugs that does nothing but mask issues. Not enough attention is paid toward preventive health and the role of nutrition, lifestyle changes and alternative how healing play into your overall wellbeing. This law creates a level playing field and lays the foundation for future action surrounding this important topic.

After a six-month study conducted by the Bureau of Insurance, it was found that not only would there not be a negative impact on premiums, but there is a strong potential for driving down the cost of health care. Oftentimes new mandates on insurance impact everyone’s premiums because insurance companies just pass along the added cost to consumers. That is not the case for this.

This is something that drives down cost and gives people more options when it comes to their personal health. That, my friends, is a win-win.

Some insurers in Maine already cover naturopathic services, but this is the first time that all insurers are required to do so. The new law will ensure patients can obtain affordable naturopathic services without fear of losing coverage over the course of treatment. It also eliminates discrimination against naturopathic providers, who often treat the same conditions without the financial recognition.

Currently, there are about 50 naturopathic doctors licensed in Maine and about 4,000 nationwide, according to the Maine Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

I have worked on this issue for the better part of a year after a constituent approached me with problems they were having getting their treatment covered. I am glad the Legislature finally came together to enact this legislation in such a bipartisan way over the objection of the governor. This marks a big win for Mainers who were unable to access the licensed health care provider of their choice. It closes loopholes in Maine law and puts Maine health care consumers first.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president of Saco Main Street. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or follow updates at www.Facebook.com/ JustinChenette.

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