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Op-Ed: Alternative treatments as an antidote to Obamacare Special

By Ernest Dempsey     Dec 5, 2013 in Health
Plano - One factor that can make Obamacare significantly more acceptable to people is inclusion of alternative medicine and treatment, says author and alternative health advocate Alan Smith.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), popularly known as Obamacare, has been in the news for years now. And the controversy seems interminable. For millions of Americans, health insurance costs a ton of money but covers hardly any Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatments. If you are interested in these, your money is wasted on insurance because it’s not covered. Most people end up paying twice: once for health insurance to cover treatments they don't want, and then they pay again out of their own pocket for treatments (alternative medicine) that they do want.
So what’s the solution to this public dilemma circling health care in America? One line of hope is what Alan E Smith calls “unbreaking your health.” Explained in his award-winning book How to UnBreak Your Health, Smith provides readers with a map to the world of complementary and alternative therapies. Let’s talk to Alan Smith about his approach to really affordable healthcare.
Ernest: Alan, thanks for taking time for this chat! First, please tell our readers what your book’s title means by “unbreaking” health?
Alan Smith: It means taking your health back to where it was before your health problems began. When we get sick or injured, most of us just want to get through it, we can’t even imagine being healthy again, but it is possible. How we get there is the challenge and our choice.
Ernest: Alternative treatments or therapies are generally considered a second, minor, or complementary option as compared to the standard medical procedures of treating diseases. How do scientific studies (in medical/health field) support the efficacy f alternative treatments?
Alan Smith: Well, let’s start with a health issue many folks are familiar with – back pain. A few years ago, there was a major study in the United Kingdom comparing the effectiveness of the major treatments: pain pills and muscle relaxers (or mainstream medicine); chiropractic care and something called the Alexander Technique. After months of study, they discovered that the Alexander Technique produced the best results, followed by chiropractic care, and last on the list were the pills of mainstream medicine.
For those not involved with the performing arts, the Alexander Technique was developed by F. M. Alexander about 100 years ago. He was a performer who suffered from chronic laryngitis and the doctors back then couldn’t cure him so he decided to solve his own problem. Using a mirror, he carefully analyzed how he spoke and compared it to actors who didn’t have health problems and discovered the small differences that added up to big problems. Then he created exercises to cure himself and he didn’t have laryngitis anymore! Then the dancers wanted help, so he did the same thing for them and eventually he created a whole system of physical training to enable you to maximize your performance while minimizing the wear and tear. Today, professional athletes are using it too.
So to answer your question, yes, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments in many cases are as effective if not more so than mainstream medicine, and usually much safer. Since there are literally hundreds of CAM therapies and treatments (not including nutrition) there are usually a couple of options for almost every type of health problem.
Ernest: How affordable are alternative treatments compared to mainstream healthcare in US?
Alan Smith: That’s a great question and one that most of us have to face at one point. Since insurance covers mainstream medicine and takes our out-of-pocket costs down to a much lower cost, it usually makes it more affordable. But balance that against the incredible cost of mainstream medicine and it’s still a lot of money. Did you know the U.S. spends over 17% of our GDP on health care? We spend twice as much as other industrialized countries; yet we’re not as healthy and don’t live as long. Doesn’t sound like we’re getting our money’s worth, does it?
CAM treatments (other than acupuncture and chiropractic care) aren’t usually covered by insurance, so it’s 100% out-of-pocket. Fortunately, they usually don’t cost as much to treat a health problem so it pretty well offsets the lack of insurance.
However, since much of CAM is a complementary treatment to mainstream medicine it can mean double costs which forces most people to choose one or the other.
Ernest: If Obamacare were to incorporate alternative health, how would it make it more acceptable to those who currently seem to dislike it?
Alan Smith: It’s interesting that when you start to ask people about CAM, they’ll say they don’t like it; but as you continue talking, you’ll find they usually have a tale of success of their own. Most people don’t like it because the American Medical Association has spent so much time and money convincing people that CAM is something terrible. If you think about it, it’s actually funny. Here’s a medical system that’s just over 100 years old pointing its finger at treatments and therapies that can be thousands of years old and used successfully by billions of people. Given the length of time each one has been around and the relative safety of each, which one do you think most people would choose?
Sorry, I’ll get off my soap box now and answer your question. Anyway, if Obamacare would pay for CAM treatments, I think you’d see an explosion in the number of folks using it. When it doesn’t cost any more to use CAM instead, or in addition to mainstream medicine, then it becomes very acceptable.
Ernest: What are some of the alternative treatments your book discusses as effective against diseases that cost a lot in standard medical treatments?
Alan Smith: That’s one of the interesting aspects of CAM – different treatments work for different people. Unlike mainstream medicine, where one-sized pill fits everyone, CAM is based on the individual. Different treatments work for different folks for the same health problems. I supposed it’s one of the reasons so many people prefer mainstream medicine, it’s simple. They go to their doctor and get a pill (or surgery) and go on their merry way. With CAM you have to take responsibility for your own health and find what works for you.
Let’s take something like ADHD, a growing health problem these days. Mainstream doctors want to prescribe Ritalin or other drugs from childhood and through adult years, a costly situation in the long run. However, there is a treatment called Auditory Intervention Technique that can solve the problem in a few weeks. The Berard AIT was actually developed by a doctor in France fifty years ago and it finally made it to America in the 1990’s. The premise is that our two ears can hear differently which causes neurological confusion, dissonance and resulting behavioral problems. By training the ears to hear together the system functions as it’s supposed to and the problems disappear.
Ernest: Do you think alternative medicine is generally less feared or dreaded by people due to its noninvasive procedures?
Alan Smith: Absolutely! Also because it’s safe. Something that’s been used by lots of folks over decades, hundreds or even thousands of years wouldn’t have survived if it didn’t work. Which would you feel better about: a new pill with unknown effectiveness and side effects, or a CAM treatment that’s been around for a thousand years?
Ernest: Does your book include any testimonies or stats in support of the effectiveness of alternative treatments?
Alan Smith: Yes, it does. I thought it was important that readers see how a treatment actually feels to be used. Strangely enough, due to our HIPPA laws, it was also one of the most challenging parts of writing the book. It took a lot of time to collect enough experiences for the book even though they’re all anonymous.
Ernest: In context of commercial interest, will the mainstream medicine suffer seriously if more people opt for alternative medicine?
Alan Smith: Mainstream medicine feels that it’s in a fight to the death with CAM; always has. They think they’re the buggy makers when automobiles came into existence, which is strange considering that they’re the new kids on the block. If you think the fight the drug manufacturers have put up regarding importing drugs from Canada or allowing more generics is something, you haven’t seen anything yet. Imagine losing potentially all of your business! Homeopathy and other CAM therapies have been proven safe and effective for a long time. Drugs aren’t the only way to solve health problems.
Ernest: Finally, in your own life, how have you benefitted from alternative medicine?
Alan Smith: Oh my! Where do I start? I guess one of the best examples is my Irritable Bowel Syndrome, an ugly condition that led me to the Mayo Clinic many years ago. Living in a constant painful swing from constipation to diarrhea isn’t much fun, let me tell you. While Mayo is the finest medical facility in the world, they didn’t have any answers for my problem. So what do you do when modern medicine has no solution? You take responsibility for your own health and search for your own answer.
As is so often the case once I was open and ready for new ideas the answer presented itself. I read a review of Bruce Lipton’s book Biology of Belief just a few weeks after returning from Minnesota. It led me to Rob Williams and his Psych-K process. I found a local trainer and took the introductory course… and my health began to improve for the first time in many years. I took the advanced course and it continued to improve. It’s a long story to explain Psych-K but I’ll just say whatever you want in your subconscious, your body will give you… no matter how painful it may be. Even if what it thinks you want is 100% wrong, it will give it to you. Fortunately, I found what I needed, and 99% of that health challenge has been resolved without drugs or surgery.
Ernest: Alan, thank you again for this correspondence and have a great time ahead!
Alan Smith: Thank you for allowing me to talk about CAM!
Biographical and contact information for Alan Smith can be found at his website
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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