I've had the pleasure of serving on the Board of Directors of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) for the past few years, and have been very pleased with our progress in influencing the language of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and nominating key people with integrative medical backgrounds to committees involved in executing the spirit and letter of the law.Additionally, we've been working closely with legislators to support their efforts to build an integrative healthcare system in America. There is considerable work to be done regarding broad topics such as anti-discrimination, CPT codes, "medical" homes, Patient Centered Outcomes Research, and prevention and wellness, in light of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the law. The purpose for the following discussion is to inform L.Ac.'s as to our past, present and future efforts to improve our healthcare system, and specifically how our efforts impact the practice of Acupuncture in the nation. I had the opportunity to interview the IHPC executive director Alyssa Wostrel, MBA, DIHom on her goals and views of US healthcare.
BR: Can you tell me a little about IHPC and what your mission is for US healthcare?
AW: We have a fire in our hearts around the topic of healthcare reform and what it can look like for the future, fueling our ongoing commitment to our mission and vision to literally be the change agents for healthcare in the US today – from a disease focused model to a health-creation model, promoting wellness and prevention rather than the conventional model of chronic disease management. IHPC is a broad coalition of healthcare professionals, patients and organizations driving public policy to ensure access to safe, integrated health care and to the building blocks of health. IHPC's consensus voice represents 420,000 licensed practitioners, including acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, midwives and massage therapists and MD/DO Homeopaths. Our website at www.ihpc.org details our mission.
BR: What short and long term goals does your organization have?
AW: We have an amazing Board of Directors, populated with leaders and experts in their fields (acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic, massage, midwifery and homeopathy) as well as legal, policy and educational sectors. IHPC thinks BIG and so our plans both short and long term reflects the intensity, commitment and energy of the Board and our many friends in the integrative healthcare community. Short term, IHPC's focus is on implementing the favorable inclusionary aspects of the ACA related to integrative healthcare, for example regarding patient centered medical homes (the topic of our June 2012 Congressional Briefing). We are working with HRSA on this initiative. We are also working closely with the American Sustainable Business Council, (who represents 110,00 companies), chairing the Healthcare Working Group regarding the US healthcare delivery system within the business sector. IHPC recognizes momentum for change is based on real-life experiences, and we are working on making the voice of the patient part of our messaging. Real-life stories about the power of integrative healthcare for the treatment of acute and chronic disease will be part of our website and the educational aspect of our work.
We have an ongoing "Legislative Action Plan" related to the six workgroups that came out of the comprehensive Stakeholders Conference in 2010 and which focuses (by working groups) on integration in practice, CPT coding, Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) access and non-discrimination, the healthcare workforce and prevention and wellness.
BR: What are your thoughts on the recent Supreme Court Ruling on Health Care Reform and your vision for the future of Integrative Healthcare?
AW: IHPC's mission has been fueled by the windows of opportunity provided to integrative healthcare in the Affordable Care Act. If those opportunities were to be revoked, there would be an enormous setback for the integrative healthcare field. The ruling has provided us with the wind beneath our wings once again! We will focus on the implementation of the key integrative healthcare areas of inclusion of the ACA as we move forward in 2012.
BR: Can you list some of IHPCs accomplishments?
AW: Recently, IHPC has hosted three Congressional Briefings, including topics such as Pain Management and Integrated Healthcare; Discrimination Against Integrated Healthcare; and Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Integrated Healthcare in the Affordable Care Act. We intend to continue with Congressional Briefings on public policy issues germane to integrative healthcare, as education is one of IHPC's foundational pillars. In 2010, IHPC co-hosted the Stakeholder Conference on Integrated Health Care Reform at Georgetown University, which brought together healthcare educators, clinicians and advocates from across the conventional and CAM spectrum for a combination of educational sessions and strategizing around the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In 2009, IHPC partnered with Samueli Institute in the creation of the document "Wellness Initiative for the Nation" (WIN).
Other key historical accomplishments include the National Policy Dialogue on Integrated Healthcare; Finding Common Ground which led to the founding of IHPC in 2001. In 2005, IHPC hosted the National Education Dialogue to Advance Integrated Healthcare; Creating Common Ground, including representatives from conventional academic health centers, holistic nursing and public health as well as the five CAM fields with federally recognized accreditation. The Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) was formed in 2004 under the auspices of IHPC's Education Task Force as a joint effort of the national educational institutions of the fully accredited CAM disciplines. ACCAHC became independent of IHPC in 2008.
BR: Who are your Partners for Health?
AW: "Partners for health" began as membership organizations reflecting America's CAM professions such as Acupuncture and Naturopathy. Since that time, we've opened our doors to integrative clinics and educational institutions with a focus on National Healthcare Policy.
IHPC's policy driven mission makes sense and our Partners for Health want to be involved in changing healthcare in America. Each Partner in Health has a voice on the IHPC Board and is involved in discussions about public policy focus, direction and lobbying efforts on behalf of their constituency.
Currently we have 13 Partners in Health and plan to expand to about 20 Partners. Other ways to get involved with IHPC is through our Policy Council. The Council is designed so that IHPC's consensus voice is totally inclusive of all the stakeholders in integrative medicine in the US and therefore the Council will include foundations, consumer organizations, integrative medical clinics, and institutions.
Partners for Health include Bastyr University, the American Academy of Pain Management, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the AAAOM, the National Center for Homeopathy, the American Institute of Homeopathy, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Assoc, the National Assoc of Certified Professional Midwives, the American Massage Therapy Association, Life University, American Medical Student Association, Naturopathic Medical Student Association and Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research.
BR: What impact do these accomplishments have on the present and future practice of AOM in America?
AW: The healthcare workforce was originally defined as "MDs, DOs, and Allied Health professionals" and, through the efforts of IHPC, is penned in the law as "All licensed healthcare professionals" which is inclusive of Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists, Naturopathic physicians and Chiropractors. This opens the door for acupuncturists to be involved in the future of healthcare in America. The other victory that impacts acupuncturists is the non-discrimination language that states that insurance companies must pay for procedures based on CPT code, not the type of state licensed practitioner. (In the past, MDs could be reimbursed for their acupuncture services, but not licensed acupuncturists.) Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER), also championed by IHPC, will be useful to the AOM profession, because instead of performing basic science to study the efficacy of acupuncture therapy – it's comparing AOM to "standard care" which would include drugs and surgical procedures.
BR: How can licensed acupuncturists get involved?
AW: Please consider joining our efforts at IHPC by becoming a Friend of IHPC on the Online Advocacy Network (go to www.ihpc.org, go to Action, and enter your information in our database). You will receive updates on the critical public policy issues related to integrative healthcare that IHPC is working on currently. Join the cause as a volunteer for IHPC to support grassroots activism nationally. Please send us your integrative healthcare treatment success stories, either as a patient or a practitioner! Finally, IHPC welcomes and appreciates donations of any amount to support the work we do on the Hill on behalf of the American public and in support of the IHPC mission.
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