People are always asking us whether or not naturopathic medicine is
covered by insurance and, if if isn’t, “Why not?” We hope that this
information will be thought-provoking and will inspire you to take a serious
look at your health care choices and consider naturopathic medicine as an
option for you, if you have not already done so.
Is naturopathic medicine really that different from orthodox medicine?
The answer is an emphatic “yes”. l) A naturopathic doctor looks at you as a
whole, unique human being. Orthodox medical doctors generally address only
your immediate complaint and generally do not link it with the rest of your
health. 2) Naturopathic medicine is based on the principle of “Vis Medicatrix
Naturae”, the healing power of nature. We believe in each organism’s ability to
heal itself. When, for one reason or another, the organism is not able to do
this effectively, we use the most natural and least toxic stimulus possible to
lead the body in that direction. As naturopaths, our goal is to work with
the organism’s inherent healing process rather to against it (as
do antibiotoics, antifungals, anti-inflammatories, etc.) 3) Naturopaths believe
that, for healing to occur, one must live according to the laws of nature. We
encourage you to eat well, exercise, and live in harmony with the environment.
This is quite different from someone who receives two coronary bypass
surgeries without being told to stop smoking or give up meat.
Are naturopaths really doctors?
Naturopathic physicians attend four years of naturopathic medical school. We use the same textbooks as in orthodox medical schools. We learn the same techniques of physical diagnosis
and send our patients’ blood and Pap smears (if laboratory testing is
required) to the same labs. We are licensed in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii,
Con-necticut, Arizona, Washington D.C., Alaska and hope that number of
licensed states will increase. Naturopathic doctors can, however, practice in
nearly every state.
What kinds of conditions do naturopathic doctors treat?
We treat acute and chronic illnesses of nearly all kinds. Naturopathic doctors treat
everything from acne to athlete’s foot, asthma to arthritis, headaches to hay
fever, dandruff to depression, flus to fatigue, ear infections to eczema, strep
throat to smoking. Naturopathic therapies are safe for newborns, pregnant
women, the elderly…for anybody.
Is naturopathic medicine safe?
The more we hear this question, the more we want to ask, “Is orthodox medicine safe?” Naturopathic medicine is non-toxic. This means that you do not have to worry about side effects. We do not use invasive therapies, so the amount of harm naturopaths can cause is
minimal. Naturopathic medicine is so safe that there has not been one
malpractice claim against any naturopathic doctor in this country since l984,
and the number of graduating naturopaths is growing by leaps and bounds. Those
who do not know the depth of our naturopathic medical training worry that we
will misdiagnose patients, thereby depriving them of the orthodox interventions
they should have had. We have not found this to be true. To the contrary,
because we spend so much time with our patients (naturopathic first office
calls last from one to two hours and return office calls usually last one half
hour as compared to the average five to six minute visit of an orthodox medical
doctor), we have found that we are much less likely to misdiagnose. If
fact, it is common for naturopathic doctors to recognize problems or conditions
that orthodox doctors have missed. We feel that it is much safer to reserve
drugs (both over the counter and prescription) for conditions which do not
respond to naturopathic treatments. Unfortunately, many people still believe
that drugs work best. The more you read, the more you will question this
assumption. For example, parents are convinced by pediatricians that they must
give their children antibiotics if they develop an ear infection even though
studies have clearly shown that antibiotic treatment for childhood ear
infections has no better outcome than leaving the child alone. We believe that
the fewer drugs and surgeries you receive, the healthier you are likely to
How many insurance companies do cover naturopathic medicine?
Unfortunately only about 15 to 20% of our patients are covered by their
insurance to see us. The naturopathic associations are trying to change that.
We are licensed physicians and should be covered. However, it is an extremely
complicated political battle which we have not yet won. In Connecti- cut, all
insurance companies cover naturopaths. We hope it will eventually happen
Most of our patients choose to see us anyway, insurance coverage or not, and
are glad they did so.
How can I afford naturopathic medicine if it’s not covered by my
We would like to ask you, “How can you not afford naturopathic medicine?”
Here’s our reasoning:
l) Naturopathic doctors charge half or less of what orthodox medical doctors
charge. The first visit at most holistic medical doctors’ offices, including
laboratory fees, may cost you $400 to $1000. 2) Many naturopathic treatments,
particularly homeopathic medicines, cost less than a tiny fraction of
prescription medication. 3) By using natural, non-toxic treatments, you will
avoid iatrogenic (ie: doctor caused) illness. 4) By following the
recommendations of a naturopath, you are much more likely to feel better,
avoid surgery, and live longer. Just think of how much money lost work time
due to surgery, hospitalizations, or poor health will cost you in the long run.
5) You are much more likely to feel that a naturopathic doctor really knows you
and understands you as a whole person, rather thinking of you as “a case of flu
Any tips on insurance coverage?
After much research, we personally chose a company which charges very little, covers naturopaths, and covers only very health people. We are covered for medical emergencies, but
chose a high deductible. We put aside each month the difference to use as
needed for medical care which falls under our deductible.
Think about your past experiences with health care and you, too,
may find that naturopathic medicine is a bargain which you can’t refuse!
Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)