Health Care Reform: Can We Afford Another Round of Wait and See?

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By Katharine C. McCorkle, Ph.D. 

Health care in the United States is in crisis.  There’s no need to dwell on that fact with the Hospital News readers.   Regardless of how long you have been in the health care industry, you have undoubtedly lived through a number of rounds of health care reform politicking.  We are bracing for the next iteration with the recent Supreme Court decision and the upcoming election.

As a health care practitioner who has worked for decades in a number of arenas – psychology, social service, hospital, and academia – I have observed that there are abundant health care resources in the United States, but the way they are applied and distributed results in inadequate care for too many.

While some progress has been made in terms of wellness programs and engaging clients to take personal responsibility for their health, traditional medicine still focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of disease (rather than the promotion of health).  The emphasis upon specialization, technology and medication contributes significantly to the crisis as well, pricing many out of the market.

In response to these shortcomings, health care providers and the public increasingly have supported new options, in particular integrative medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Broad categories include, but are not limited to, nutrition, homeopathy, yoga, biofeedback, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and therapeutic touch. This approach combines treatments from conventional medicine and CAM for which there is scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.

CAM emphasizes long-held philosophies:

• Prevention is key to good health.

• Your body has the ability to heal itself.

• Learning, self-awareness and healing go hand in hand.

• Holistic (whole person, integrated mind/body/spirit) care is effective.

The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, whose goal is to make a qualitative difference in people’s health by advocating an integrative model of healthcare, incorporating mind, body and spirit, counts among its members 38 leading American medical schools, including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Duke and Yale. Locally, the University of Pittsburgh medical school now has a dual residency program in primary care and psychiatry, and in June 2012 they hosted a conference on “Wellness and Prevention: Common Ground for Integrative Care.”

In a 2005 survey by the American Hospital Association (AHA), 27% of responding hospitals said they offered at least one type of CAM to patients, up from 8% in 1998.  A study by the National Institutes of Health found that 38% of adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine.  Add megavitamin therapy and prayer and the figure jumps to 62%.  This despite the fact that CAM is not usually covered by insurance plans.

Can we, as a community of providers, expand to embrace those practicing various non-traditional healthcare disciplines and establish a new healing community focusing on health and growth, and integrating both eastern and western concepts of health and healing?

During 15 years of private psychology practice, I have been developing a spiritually-centered form of cognitive-behavioral treatment that I have used successfully with thousands of clients of all faiths. To make it more accessible to the public, care is provided unconditionally (regardless of their insurance status, current health or ability to pay), and no one is ever turned away.

Particularly vulnerable groups that would benefit from integrative health services include:

  • those for whom the medical community has run out of treatment options
  • people with chronic illnesses that are exacerbated by stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices
  • under-insured and uninsured people
  • disempowered women, minorities, and hopeless people
  • children and troubled teens
  • veterans and military families
  • people wanting CAM treatments and integrative health care

I believe that all people deserve affordable access to holistic health care and I know that many other health care providers have gifts they share with others unconditionally, too.  My desire is to connect those with the inclination to share their gifts freely and those in need  to create a network of providers  — psychologists, medical doctors, massage therapists, nutritionists, counselors, chiropractors, and others — operating from a shared value base of Ten Principles (See sidebar).  Together we can demonstrate the viability of an innovative, inclusive healthcare delivery model that brings client and practitioner together in a dynamic partnership dedicated to optimizing the client’s health and healing, a partnership that is affordable and sustainable for all involved.

Clearly, there is a trend towards higher acceptance of CAM and an appreciation of the value of an integrative approach to health care.  Nonetheless, new ventures utilizing an integrative mind-body approach have been pursued in a very measured manner.  This creates an opportunity for a health care organization embracing a wide range of both traditional and evidence-based complementary and alternative treatments, and utilizing a business model that accommodates the under-insured and uninsured.

Might you join me in assuring that all in our community have access to the services they need?  Working together, we need not wait for 2014, or for the government to regulate access to needed care.

Katharine C. McCorkle, Ph.D. is founder and CEO of Balanced Heart Healing Center, Inc. In Warrendale, PA. For more information, visit www.balancedheart.org. Dr. Katie is also the author of “A Balanced Heart: 10 Weeks to Breakthrough”, a guided journal offering readers tools and strategies for self-healing and personal growth.

The following 10 Principles comprise the shared value base at Balanced Heart Healing Center (c. 2002):

1. Open your heart and trust

2. Give and receive freely, without attachment to the outcome

3. Create safety for yourself and others

4. Welcome everything as a blessing, especially when it doesn’t look like one

5. See only goodness (aka Love)

6. Dream BIG!

7. Take responsibility for everything, no exceptions

8. Let go of what no longer serves you

9. Have no judgments, so truth can be revealed

10. Be the miracle you want to create