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Presidential Race: Obama & McCain on Complementary Medicine, plus Poll of Integrative Practitioners PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Presidential Race: McCain & Obama on Complementary Medicine, Integrative Practitioners on the Candidates

Summary: With a little digging, I found some direct statements from the Obama and McCain campaigns on complementary and alternative medicine, reported here. On a more limited issue, the American Chiropractic Association notified its members of a very favorable view of chiropractic from Obama. Despite historically Republican leanings in the chiropractic profession, the ACA is quiet on McCain. Meantime, Integrator sponsor Integrative Practitioner Online asked its members for their perspectives on which candidate would be the most meaningful to integrative practices. The findings are here. I close with a brief, personal perspective, based on alignment with the values that attracted me to these fields 25 years ago.
To participate in a discussion on these topics, go to this discussion
or send your comments to

For a recent column for Integrative Practitioner, I searched for comments from either John McCain or Barack Obama, or from their campaigns, on complementary, alternative and integrative medicine. Pickings were slim. Below is the most directly relevant portion of the column, plus the results of an Integrative Practitioner Poll on the candidates. For more information, read the column here. To discuss, go to this Integrative Practitioner Discussion Forum here (you need to sign up - it's free - to participate). Integrative Practitioner now boast 4000 members from diverse disciplines.

1.   Obama and McCain Surrogates speak to complementary and alternative medicine


I found the following, from a September 18 candidates' forum on health policy at George Washington University. (This link takes you to the webcast. The comments are at approximately the 60th minute.)  Both candidates were represented by surrogates. The subject came up in a question from the audience
: "This is on complementary and alternative medicine. Given the high cost of prescription drugs, would you be in favor of greater research into the various complementary and alternative therapies, and how would you integrate these therapies with conventional medicine?" The responses:
Image
Barack Obama
Obama (Doris Hughes, MPH, MD)
: Certainly that is a question, to be fair, that has not been addressed by the campaign.  I always just have to take a step back that of course, in terms of doubling federal funding for basic science research, those dollars would be available through the NIH, and obviously, they have existing research studies on this very area. In terms of how it would be integrated, certainly we have said that the basic benefit package could be modeled on packages available through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), to the extent that those programs currently now cover complementary alternative medicine. Certainly, we would expect that to continue. But I have to be very fair to Senator Obama, he has always had an open minded attitude and willingness to genuinely look at the data, the evidence for all types of healthcare. We know that Western medicine, traditional medicine certainly is not panacea for so many medical conditions and illnesses now and to the extent that we could identify effective therapy across other areas, and certainly that is something that should be on the table.


Image
John McCain
McCain (Jay Kholsa, MHA)
: Like you said, rising drug costs—and I think this is an area of commonality between Senator McCain and Senator Obama’s healthcare plans—we both recognize that rising drug cost is a huge issue for the US healthcare system. And there’s a lot of stuff that we are in agreement about when it comes to generics, when it comes to making sure that we have safe importation put into place. As far as alternative medicines go, I think it’s a very interesting question, and I would like to go back to the idea that I started off my comments with and that is choice. If the American family feels like they need greater choice, now they’ll have an opportunity under the McCain healthcare plan, to go across, even across state lines to look at plans that do offer alternative medicines as part of their coverage. And they’ll be free to get that plan if they feel like that best meets their family’s needs. So, once again, we put the choice in the hands of the American people. And I think innovation is something that should be encouraged in all arenas.
Comment: Notably, the freedom to go across state lines is a freedom to by a plan that doesn't include  requirements that chiropractic, naturopathic medicine or other services of distinctly licensed complementary healthcare practitioners are covered. My column includes additional, potentially relevant information.

2.   ACA Letter Announces Obama backing of chiropractic services

Image
Reported Obama's support
On October 13, 2008, Barack Obama sent a letter to "doctors of chiropractic" in which he honors the role of chiropractic in the system. The letter states:
" ... I believe steps should be taken to acknowledge the important care provided by doctors of chiropractic. We need to knock down unreasonable barriers of access and discriminatory insurance coverage so Americans in need of quality chiropractic care can access it without difficulty. We need to expand the range of chiropractic services covered by Medicare, facilitate integration of doctors of chiropractic into the health care systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, and allow commission of doctors of chiropractic as officers in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. And again, under my health care plan, many, if not all, chiropractic services would be included in the benefit package offered in the public plan."
Comment: The letter appears to be the strongest direct statement either candidate has made regarding any complementary or integrative services. The letter was announced by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). The ACA, and the chiropractic profession, which are typically Republican in leaning, do not include anything I could find that was as favorable from or about McCain. The ACA has an election page that includes responses to a series of queries from the Obama campaign. The McCain campaign did not respond.

3.
Poll on Candidates' view on integrative practice:  uncertainty, strong leaning to Obama

This last month, Integrative Practitioner Online ran a poll on Presidential politics which I had an opportunity to help craft.  Here is what we asked, and the responses.
______________________________

Question:
“Which reflects your view of integrative practice
in McCain & Obama health reform proposals?”


 Response

   %

McCain directly supports
   9%
 Obama directly supports    15%
 McCain is philosophically aligned    13%
 Obama is philosophically aligned    39%
 Neither will make a difference    14%
 Don’t know/no opinion    10% 


______________________________

Image
Polled members on candidates
One way to view these outcomes is that 54% view Obama more positively and 22% view McCain in a more favorable light. The other is that 76% of respondents don’t think either will directly make a difference. Meantime, 24% of all respondents either don’t know or don’t think either will make a difference to integrative practice. 

4.  Coda: The view from here - Obama's values alignment with healing


In 1983, when I first got involved in the integrative practice universe, my professional work was in politics, legislative work, business and political journalism and, yes, community organizing. I was drawn to the concepts of integrative practice not as a patient or as a practitioner. I was attracted, as a citizen and activist, to what I perceived integrative practitioners advance. The concepts that draw me (still) are of healing, of wholeness, of the embedded importance of environmental health, of community and connectedness, of respect for both male and female principles, and of deep acknowledgment of, and respect for, differences, and affirmative engagement with the contributions from distinct traditions and cultures of the world. I believe that the current U.S. president has been aggravating dis-ease on all of these accounts. As well all know, McCain has voted with those directions 90% of the time.

Obama is the candidate who looks, from the research above, to be most open to integrative practices. He is also the candidate who is most aligned with the values which drew me to this work. At Obama’s worst, most of our present, gaping wounds will be less likely to be continuously prodded and inflamed. At Obama’s best, we have a historic chance for healing on many fronts and in many ways. Many of us yearn for that. Vote early and vote often. Vote Obama.

To participate in a discussion on these topics, go to this discussion
or send your comments to



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