Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/26/2004 01:37 PM Senate L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 306-NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE CHAIR CON BUNDE announced SB 306 to be up for consideration. MR. BRIAN HOVE, staff to Senator Seekins, sponsor of SB 306, was present to answer questions. CHAIR BUNDE said he had asked if naturopathic colleges are associated with traditional colleges and had found that they aren't. He asked if Mr. Hove knew of any major universities that offered a degree in naturopathy. MR. HOVE replied that he wasn't aware of any. CHAIR BUNDE said the Alaska State Medical Association suggests that if SB 306 is enacted, it should be amended to keep existing law pertaining to naturopaths in place and add a subsection that would hold naturopaths to the same standard of care as licensed physicians. He asked if anyone wanted to comment on that. SENATOR SEEKINS asked what the Medical Association defines as "same standard of care". He forged ahead saying that SB 306 allows naturopaths to practice up to the level of their education and only prescribe drugs if they have been granted a Drug Enforcement Association License and perform only minor surgery. If it means that naturopaths will have to be held to the same standard as the doctor in the performance of those duties, I don't see where anyone would object to that.... They are under a greater restriction here than a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant and have equivalent or better educational background to support that.... I think all performing people in the area of medical practice should be held to the same level of performance or standard or performance equivalent to the levels of authority that we're allowing them under state law, if that's the answer to the question. I have no problem with that. CHAIR BUNDE said he had no problem with that either and added that the Medical Association also wanted to keep the existing law pertaining to naturopaths in place without prescription rights, if applicable. MR. WAYNE ADERHOLD, Homer resident, supported SB 306. Naturopathic physicians have a right to practice commensurate with their training and to provide even more comprehensive primary care to their patients in Alaska and I have a right to receive that care in my home state.... MR. ADERHOLD said he uses naturopathic services for 95 percent of his health care needs and related how he was successfully treated for melanoma through surgery and non-toxic adjutant therapy from a naturopathic team in Arizona, spending only $20,000 out of pocket. Although he felt that the State of Alaska is somewhat progressive in allowing naturopaths to practice, it isn't as progressive as Arizona. Naturopathic health care is supported by informed consumers throughout this state [Alaska], because it is effective both medically and financially. Consumers of naturopathic services are required to take an active part in decision-making and responsibility for their own health. Naturopathic physicians are true followers of the tenant, first do not harm, which might be your standard care. MR. ADERHOLD also supported regulations established by the naturopathic board and informed the committee, "Malpractice rates on naturopathic physicians are miniscule compared to those on other physicians." CHAIR BUNDE asked Mr. Aderhold, in the course of his melanoma treatment, if he needed a drug that a naturopathic doctor could have prescribed, but was not able to because of existing law. MR. ADERHOLD replied that because he received his initial treatment in Arizona, where naturopaths can write prescriptions for regulated drugs, he was able to receive the one he needed. He received mostly unregulated drugs. MR. MICHAEL YOURKOWSKI, Homer resident, said he is a patient of Dr. Patrick Huffman, ND, in Homer and his wife is a nurse practitioner who works in association with him. "Together they provide complementary medicine that patients really benefit from." He stressed the importance of the licensing board and the legitimacy it would provide for people who practice naturopathy in Alaska. He claimed his wife is a nurse practitioner and has the right to prescribe medicine while her naturopathic associate, who has more education, cannot. MS. SHEVAUN TONSETH, Anchorage resident, said she fully trusts her naturopathic doctor, Dr. Kayce Rose, and prefers to go to her for all of her primary care instead of going to her and another doctor. "I feel she should be able to prescribe or do minor surgeries to what her training is...." DR. DAVID NEWIRTH, ND, Anchorage, supported SB 306, "Based on the fact that we do have the training we're asking to be able to practice to that level." CHAIR BUNDE asked him to comment on the Medical Association's request that naturopaths be held to the same standard of care and whether there is a different standard of care at this point. DR. NEWIRTH replied that he didn't really know the particulars, but he didn't see that there should be any difference in the standard of care. DR. KAYCE ROSE, ND, said she thought that the standard of care is what is really at stake in SB 306. To be able to insure that our patients are able to receive the care that is most efficacious, most appropriate, for whatever they are experiencing at the time is contingent on our ability to be able to prescribe medicine when appropriate. Our education allows us to be the most well-trained physicians for primary care out there because we have such a broad spectrum of opportunities of types of therapies that we do offer. DR. ROSE said her patients might have to spend health care dollars twice to get the same type of care. She related an actual experience in which one of her patients had dangerously high blood sugar and couldn't wait the three months to see an endocrinologist who could prescribe the appropriate medication and couldn't afford going to a more emergent type of health care facility. DR. ROSE said that naturopathic colleges are not extensions of traditional medical schools, but they are accredited universities and are held to the same standards as any other university. DR. MADELEINE MORRISON-YOUNG, ND, said she has practiced in Eagle River for seven years. She supported all the previous testimony and said her education included training in antibiotics and hormones. To be a primary care physician and doing gynecology every day and giving people pap smears, but being unable to prescribe them their birth control pills, has been a real struggle in my practice for not only obviously myself, because it's frustrating, but financially for my patients. Sending them off with their annuals and their pap results to another practitioner so that they can get a simple birth control prescription is frustrating. DR. YOUNG said that naturopaths have been using bio-identical, naturally compounded hormones for years and consider themselves specialists in the area. She supported SB 306. MS. PAMELA HANSEN, Kenai resident, supported SB 306 saying that she, her husband and her mother use naturopathic health care. She would like their doctor to be able to provide them all the care they need, i.e. full prescriptive rights and the right to do minor surgery. The state she originally came from gave these full rights to naturopaths in 1962 and she was amazed to find that Alaska didn't. MS. JANE SIMONS, Kasilof resident, testified as a mother and a senior. She has an adult disabled son who is 24 years old and she said they are both receiving Medicaid. She is forced to use a medical doctor who accepts Medicare and Medicaid, because she cannot afford to pay for health care out-of-pocket. "The care that works for us is naturopathic care." DR. TORREY SMITH, ND, said he has practiced in Anchorage since 1992 and supported SB 306. He wanted the freedom to use the skills he has and feels are most appropriate for his patients. He also wants to be able to give patients the choices they would like to have and need in dealing with their health care issues. CHAIR BUNDE noted that he hadn't heard a single person testify against this bill, but he still was searching for the answer to the question of the same standard of care that the Medical Association has asked about. He would let the bill move from committee today with the proviso that he could amend it if it was necessary. SENATOR SEEKINS moved to pass SB 306 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. Senators French, Seekins, Stevens and Bunde voted yea; and SB 306 moved from committee.