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Hawaii’s DPC Answers the Naturopathic-Health Insurance Dilemma

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Regular readers of my blog are fully aware that most health insurance plans do not cover treatments provided by naturopathic doctors. The result is that patients are required to pay for naturopathic care out-of-pocket. But there may be a solution on the horizon. Hawaii’s direct primary care (DPC) model of preventive medicine appears to be friendly to naturopathic medicine.

Hawaii was one of the first states to look at a single-payer health insurance system in order to solve the ongoing problem of too many uninsured people. Their original implementation of single-payer healthcare did not work, so they scrapped the program and started over. One of the new initiatives legislators came up with is DPC.

Under the DPC model, doctors establish a patient base of about 1,000 patients and then offer annual or monthly memberships that give those patients access to all kinds of primary care. One example is the Iris Integrative Health practice established by a husband-and-wife team. Dr. Buzz Hollander is a traditional medical doctor while Dr. Michelle Suber is a licensed naturopathic physician.

Improving Health and Saving Money

The typical DPC practice in Hawaii focuses on families rather than individuals. It is also designed to be as affordable as possible, in contrast to concierge medicine, which can quickly become prohibitively expensive. Iris is typical in that it charges $125 monthly for an adult and $50 for a child. Every subsequent family member added to this basic plan costs less. Iris offers eight different plans that meet just about every family need.

Included in the fee are nearly all the costs of standard primary care, including office visits. Patients can receive face-to-face meetings with one of the doctors (that can last as long as 45 min.) along with strep test, flu tests, minor surgical procedures, etc.

So, how does naturopathic medicine fit into all of this? It’s simple: at Iris, patients can see the doctor of their choice. The patient who prefers a naturopathic approach can see Dr. Michelle while another patient who prefers an allopathic approach can see Dr. Buzz. Patients can even utilize the services of both depending on their reasons for visiting the office on any given day.

The state of Hawaii has found that adopting this approach for primary care saves a tremendous amount of money through prevention. A typical DPC membership costs between $600 and $1,500 per year and completely bypasses traditional health insurance. Imagine what that means for a state that is currently spending many more times that, per patient, on Medicaid and Medicare programs.

Even patients who pay out-of-pocket save a tremendous amount. An annual fee of $1,500 is more than affordable when you compare it to private health insurance plans that can cost a family up to $10,000 per year or more.

A Good Way to Take Advantage of Naturopathy

I cannot say for sure whether Hawaii’s DPC system will be financially feasible long-term. But at first glance, it certainly looks like it will work. Furthermore, it makes it possible for families to take advantage of naturopathic medicine that is affordable, even if their health insurance providers do not offer coverage for it. Perhaps Hawaii’s program will provide a model the rest of us can look at.

In the meantime, naturopathic medicine is an alternative we encourage all of our readers to consider. Keep in mind that naturopathic doctors like myself and my husband are licensed medical doctors with more than adequate training. We welcome the opportunity to help you lead a happier and healthier life through prevention and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

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