From the Executive Director: Winter 2014 Update

This is the year of the Wood Horse in the Chinese calendar and supposedly this augurs a time of energy and the potential for success. What I’ve noticed is that 2014 has started off at a gallop! A lot is going on and in general it feels like energy is moving rather quickly and sometimes dramatically. Weather reports from around the country seem to reflect this and it makes me think we’ll all be wise to stay flexible and expect the unexpected this year. Perhaps our challenge is to stay on the horse and use this time of moving energy to encourage positive changes and growth for our profession and in our own lives!

With all that’s been going on, this issue of the newsletter is coming out a bit later than expected, but there are a few WANP updates I’d like to call to your attention as we zoom into this new year. The first is that we’ve added a staff person in the WANP office. Tina Praseuth will be our new administrative assistant and I’m looking forward to her support for our office operations and membership functions. In addition, Tina brings a background in graphic design, social media, event planning and marketing that will be very helpful and will specifically help us market our new public website as well as our continuing education programs.

And on the CE front, the WANP Board has made a decision to change the way we offer continuing education. With a goal of reaching more of our doctors, increasing the vitality of our programs and emphasizing Washington-specific content, our Board has decided to explore alternatives to the two, two-day conferences at Bastyr University that have been regular events for quite a few years.

Most immediately, we will NOT be having a two-day Spring conference this year. Instead, plan on one weekend conference this Fall at a new venue in the Greater Seattle area, tentatively with an ‘in person’ annual meeting and some type of banquet or social function. The focus of the event will be on ‘Pain Management in Primary Care’ including an update on medical marijuana (following the legislature’s final action – see below.)

In keeping with the ever-expanding digital environment that we live in, the WANP is also planning to host a number of webinars as well. The first is scheduled for Wednesday, March 12th from 6 – 8 pm. The topic will be the new ICD-10 diagnostic codes, which become mandatory October 1st of this year, and the presenter will be our own WANP President, Dr. Mona Fahoum. Stay tuned for more details – this will be the first in a series of webinars on this important topic – and we think you’ll find it both valuable and necessary – particularly if you want to optimize your reimbursement from insurers. Other webinars are being planned, and we anticipate offering both courses for CE credit and practice management/financial programs as well. Your suggestions for additional topics are welcome!

At this writing, the Washington legislature is in session and monitoring their activity as it relates to our profession is one the WANP’s primary functions. While we have not put forward any specific bills this year, don’t think that means we’re inactive! Passing legislation and coordinating grassroots legislator contact is just one type of political action, but there is much more. This year, the WANP is focused on working in the regulatory sphere – working for changes in the Rule-making process – and it is less public than working to pass bills, but no less important. Rules, referred to as WACs (Washington Administrative Code) define the specific implementation of laws or RCWs (Revised Code of Washington), also known as statutes. This process involves submitting comments to the regulatory agency making the rule, attending hearings and giving testimony – and at times getting support from legislators, though not for votes since they are not directly involved in rule making decisions. Our focus this year is more specific inclusion in insurance law as a way to strengthen naturopathic standing as primary care providers and to build the foundation for reimbursement parity.

As for legislation, there are several bills we have been monitoring. Two are pending related to medical marijuana and how it will be integrated with the upcoming recreational system of marijuana access.  While there are numerous facets to this new legislation and quite a few concerns regarding specific details, both bills create a task force to determine clinical guidelines for marijuana authorization – including participation by the Board of Naturopathy, along with the other primary care professions.

Another bill is pending that would require all healthcare providers to take additional training in suicide prevention. While this is an important topic, the WANP has agreed with the Washington Academy of Family Physicians in opposing this bill as not the best use of resources for mental health care and because it would set a precedent for legislative micromanagement of professional education requirements.

It is still too soon to know what the fate of any of these bills will be, and as usual there are numerous other bills that could impact our doctors and require our review and comment. Please let me know if you have any specific comments or questions about our legislative activities this year.

With the creation of the new Board of Naturopathy, our profession has NDs in decision-making roles for a wide range of issues that impact our profession, including rule-making as well as discipline issues. Currently, the Board is in the process of developing rules to clarify what type of continuing education credits will be recognized for NDs.  This could involve a certain number of credits requiring certification, which they currently do not require, and/or specific areas of credits per year, such as for pharmacy credits.  The Board is also taking up the issue of cosmetic injections, such as Botox, and related products, and the WANP is monitoring and contributing to this process as well. Watch for more clarification in our next issue, and again, if you have questions or comments, please let us know.

Since the first of the year, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the WANP has gotten a number of new inquiries from both patients and doctors.  We are clearly in new territory and there is a fair bit of confusion and some growing pains as well.  Lately, we have been getting calls from individuals looking for NDs who accept Medicaid.  Right now there isn’t a single source to direct these people to find a naturopathic provider, so you may get calls directly.  We’ve also gotten several reports of some benefit plans denying or discriminating against ND coverage for preventive services or care in general.  Most of these cases have involved self-insured employers who are able to customize their benefits with exclusions that don’t apply to the more mainstream health benefits plans. Whether this is allowable under the ACA is another area of investigation for the WANP and we are following up and will do our best gain optimal access to our doctors for all people in Washington.  Again, stay tuned and let us know what your experience is in this regard.

So, we appear to be in a time of moving energy with a lot of changes underway.  This can be hectic and a bit disorienting, but also has the potential for growth and new development – and it is all the more reason that we stay in touch.  I’ll do my best to keep you up to date as the above changes take shape and come into form.  Please do the same from where you are.  Thanks for reading and for your support. We couldn’t do any of this without out members!

In health,

Bob May

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