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Insurance policy: House panel waters down naturopath mandate.

After flirting with the idea of supporting a new big health insurance mandate, the Republican majority on the House Commerce Committee backed away a week later from requiring insurers to cover patients using naturopath doctors as primary care physicians in the small group market. Instead, the requirement will be limited to the individual market, where people already had the option to use a naturopath, since consumers in that market pay a percentage of the cost of each visit, unlike an HM0-type system in which a physician acts as a gatekeeper to prevent the over-utilization of specialists.

Earlier, the committee passed the wider naturopath mandate by a 10-6 vote --ironically after considering a hill that would do away with all mandates passed over the last four years.

Committee Chair Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, said insurers are upset 3ecause under current contracts, physicians are supposed to be able to refer patients to a specialist, not naturopaths.

Rep, Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, argued that it was good public policy not to discriminate against patients who prefer going to naturopaths. Besides, she said, naturopaths are less likely to refer patients to specialists, meaning lower costs.

And since the cost problem is in the group market, "where was the real benefit" of putting the "shall" in the individual market, she asked.

But Schlachman lost her Republican allies from a week earlier, when they championed the idea of increasing competition in the health care market.

Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry, said he had hoped insurers would go in this direction. adding that the legislation had been intended to "send the message" to do so.

Manuse also said be got the message that the measure would go down in the defeat in the full House. and the compromise would at least nudge insurers toward covering the use of naturopaths.

The committee voted to reconsider the bill. passed the new amendment. 15-1. with only Kenneth Gidge, D-Nashua, voting against.

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Author:Sanders, Bob
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1U1NH
Date:Nov 4, 2011
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