March 24, 2010 – The health care reform bill signed into law March 23 by President Barack Obama, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, includes several provisions that address complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and one focused on certain dietary supplements. These details, previously identified by American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) President Michael McGuffin in a Jan. 13, 2010 open letter, primarily serve to better incorporate alternative practitioners into the U.S. health care system.
Among the provisions included in the final law, section 4206 would have a direct effect on those dietary supplements for which there are FDA-approved health claims by setting up a pilot program for "wellness plans," which can now include those few supplements with "health claims approved by the Secretary." Currently approved health claims include, for example, claims for calcium and osteoporosis; soluble fiber and coronary heart disease; and folic acid and neural tube birth defects. The full list can be found on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site.
Another notable provision in the health care reform bill is section 2706, which prohibits "discrimination" against any health care provider licensed in a state; more specifically:
"A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider's license or certification under applicable State law."
Other sections of the new law will also promote more inclusion for CAM practitioners. These include section 5101, that establishes a National Healthcare Workforce Commission to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and section 3502, which creates "community health teams," defined to include, among others, "licensed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners."
“The new health care law is a starting point for a broader inclusion of CAM within the U.S. healthcare system,” said McGuffin. “If managed properly, greater inclusion of alternative practitioners in health care should open a pathway for increased acceptance of the dietary supplement products they provide.”