Iowa legislators consider alternative health care bill

The Fairfield Ledger/February 17, 2004
By Erik Gable

Measure would exempt alternative medical providers from licensing requirements.

A bill being considered in the Iowa Legislature could have far-reaching implications for homeopaths, ayurvedic practitioners and other alternative health care providers in Fairfield and across the state.

The Consumer Health Freedom Act would exempt people who practice various forms of alternative medicine from needing to be licensed by the state. At the same time, it would require those providers to give patients a written notice disclosing their unlicensed status and detailing the practitioner's training and the nature of the services to be provided.

Under current Iowa law, some alternative health care providers run the risk of prosecution for practicing medicine without a license. However, physicians, chiropractors and other licensed providers are allowed to practice alternative forms of medicine as long as they do not infringe on the area of another licensed group.

Supporters of the bill say it would expand the range of health care options available to consumers. Opponents say it would jeopardize consumer safety by allowing anyone to practice alternative medicine regardless of their level of training.

"There are numerous alternative medicine approaches that Iowans and Americans have been using for years," said state Sen. Jack Hatch, the Des Moines Democrat who introduced the bill in the Senate.

Hatch said committees in the House and Senate will have to decide exactly what forms of alternative medicine would be exempt from licensing requirements. The most recent draft of the bill lists a range of therapies including ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, hypnosis, reflexology and reiki.

David Sands, a Fairfield physician who practices ayurvedic medicine at the Maharishi University of Management health center, said people are already seeking alternative health care from licensed and unlicensed providers, so "all [the bill] does is legalize what already exists."

Unlicensed practitioners would have to disclose the fact that they do not have a state license, both directly to their patients and in any advertising. Patients also would receive a written statement including the provider's credentials, the nature of the treatment to be provided, and a reminder that they are free to seek care from a licensed provider as well.

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