Online publication only
In recent weeks, I have been quite concerned about possible implications of HR3200, the House health care bill as supported by President Obama, specifically in terms of its potential effects on the availability of alternative medicine approaches. As I have researched the issue, the threats seems ominous, real, and virtually unappreciated even within the alternative medicine community.
Recently, the Liberty Counsel in Washington, a non-profit legal defense fund, read and reviewed the entire House of Representatives Obama health care legislation, currently known as HR3200. You can access the 10 page summary of the legislation, the best summary I've seen, from the Liberty Counsel website, just Google Liberty Counsel. While the bill as it now stands contains many potential dangers to health care in general, according to the Liberty Counsel summary and my several conversation with their superb and concerned staff, it appears that a cabal in Washington will determine what type of medicine will be allowed, with criminal penalties for all those practicing forms of medicine not approved by this group of unelected bureaucrats.
It is not clear whether any physician or other type of practitioner could opt out of the system. For example, at present, a physician can opt out of Medicare, as I have, and therefore avoid the onerous penalties for practicing outside the conventional Medicare world. In terms of Obamacare, the legislation apparently dictates that no physician can not opt out and consequently would be required to practice according to the requirements of an unelected group of Washington experts. And each physician's practice will be monitored, to insure compliance with the Washington edicts about medical practice. Should such a situation come to pass, all alternative therapies could quickly cease to exist.
At my request, the Liberty Counsel reviewed the legislation specifically to determine what impact the bill might have on practitioners such as myself who do not practice conventional medicine. Unfortunately, our conversations were not very reassuring. As a start, the bill has been deliberately written to be unclear, apparently to allow broad sweeping interpretations and unchallenged power grabs in Washington should it pass.
Despite careful study by the Liberty Counsel experts, it's impossible to state whether any physician can opt out of the system at any time or under any circumstance, and continue to practice as he or she wishes, even if willing to forgo government payments for care. The Liberty Counsel people to whom I have spoken did warn me that it does appear, the way the bill is worded, all physicians would – most likely – be forced to practice within the structure of the new government program without exception.
And once in the system, a physician would be forced to practice according to the standards created by a group in Washington – whom I doubt will have any sympathy toward alternative med. Physicians not practicing according to these predetermined "standard of care" regulations would be subjected to severe criminal penalties. We are, in essence, witnessing something I thought I would never see in America, the criminalization of legitimate medical practice.
A Washington consultant and good friend, Beth Clay, has at my request also reviewed the legislation, and discussed these important issues with the staffs of Senator Grassley and Congressman Dan Burton who are very knowledgeable about these issues (Congressman Burton has long been a strong supporter of my research efforts). Unfortunately, their assessments also do not reassure. I have been told that it might be theoretically possible for a physician to opt out of the system, but that any physician who chooses that path will be subjected to onerous financial penalties and fines that make independent practice impossible, essentially to force him or her back into the system.
If this threat proves real, many qualified alternative physicians would have no choice but to shut down their practices, or face threat of criminal prosecution. In my case, the day the bill becomes law in its present form, I very well might have to stop my practice and hundreds of my patients will die. It's potentially that serious.
Whatever your politics may be, this House bill, and the other health care bills sprouting up like spring weeds, not only represent a threat to our liberty in general – big government historically never translates into greater freedom for anyone other than bureaucrats – but represent a major threat to alternative medicine and the future of my specific treatment.
I suggest that everyone with an interest in keeping this therapy available immediately contact your Senators and Representatives, by phone or by e-mail or BEST BY FAX, expressing your concern about possible threats to freedom of choice in health care in HR 3200. Even if you don't know who your Senators and Representatives are, you can find them online simply by Googling US Senate and US House of Representatives. These official sites will direct you to the home page and contact information of your particular Senators and Representatives based on your Zip code as you log in.
It's very simple. Try and meet with local Congressional and Senatorial staff directly, such personal contact always has an effect. Explain your concerns. If your life depends on alternative and holistic therapies, let them know that too.
Keep in mind that the immediate knee jerk response of Congressional staff is to deny any problem. But remember that no one in Washington other than the Liberty Counsel group, and the staffs of Senator Grassley and Congressman Burton seem actually to have read the legislation, so the staff of your Senators and Congressman may dismiss your concerns out of ignorance and disbelief. But make your concerns known, argue that the bill shouldn't be passed, insist the bill if it is to be passed include provisions protecting the right of physicians who practice non-traditional medicine to opt out of the system. Make them aware that you want unconventional medicine to be available unrestricted by government criminal penalties, and that you want your freedom of choice in health care guaranteed forever.
Public outcries about the legislation, to the angry dismay of its proponents, are already having an impact. But you must act, and you must act now. I will keep you posted. My contacts in Washington are mobilizing.
Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D.