Blue Cross opposes bill to cover naturopathic medicine

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(Host) Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is opposing legislation that would extend insurance coverage to naturopathic physicians for medically necessary health care services. Naturopaths are state-licensed health care providers, although they don’t have traditional medical degrees.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Vermont Senate is scheduled to take up the bill this week that’s strongly supported by individuals who receive health care services from naturopathic physicians. At this time, most health insurance companies don’t provide coverage for many of these services. Under this bill, consumers would be covered for all “medically necessary” tests and procedures.

Washington County Senator Ann Cummings is the lead sponsor of the bill. Cummings says more and more consumers are seeking naturopathic care and she says visits and health tests related to an illness should be covered by health insurance companies.

Cummings says she doesn’t believe the legislation will increase the state’s overall health care budget:

(Cummings) “So that people are either going without the tests, paying out of pocket for them or they have to make a second office visit to a general practitioner in order to get the tests done. That didn’t seem like a particularly efficient way. Everyone is concerned about the cost of health care but we haven’t had any testimony that this will significantly increase anything.”

(Kinzel) Blue Cross spokesperson Leigh Tofferi disagrees. Tofferi says when individuals seek the assistance of a naturopathic physician, the visit is often in addition to a trip the person’s regular doctor. So Blue Cross believes the legislation will increase health care expenses:

(Tofferi) “So we see it really as adding pressure to increasing costs of health care and what we’re hearing from our customers, our members, from the Legislature and public policy makers is that the increasing cost of health care is a severe problem for everybody. And we don’t think this time is the right time to do anything without evidence that it’s either going to reduce costs or not have an impact on rising costs.”

(Kinzel) The legislation was approved by the Senate Government Operations Committee late last week without any opposition.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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