Sometimes in the halls of the Capitol in Boise, the answer to bad government is — wait for it — more government.
Such seems to be the case with a new proposal to license Naturopathic physicians, which passed the Idaho House on a 37 to 32 vote Tuesday.
Idaho law already regulates — at least in the wording — some Naturopathic practitioners. In practice, the code means nothing, though, as the board tasked with overseeing those rules remains empty.
That’s the result of a long standoff between practitioners schooled in certain accredited institutions and those who’ve taken different routes into the practice.
The bill representatives passed Tuesday would require all those wishing to call themselves Naturopathic doctors to obtain a license from the state. That license, as outlined, excludes all applicants who haven’t attended certain schools in the United States and Canada.
Proponents say the bill wouldn’t affect those who didn’t study in those schools and that the bill only gives more practitioner rights to those who have. Opponents say the bill would kill jobs and shut out of the market highly experienced Naturopathic practitioners.
Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said the bill would only limit competition in the market, thereby driving up prices for consumers.
“It will likely do more harm than good,” he warned. “Licensing creates a monopoly for those who have a license.”
Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, produced an attorney general’s opinion on the measure that suggested the new bill is a near copy of the old one, which could create some legal confusion and questions.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, warned the measure would force many practitioners out of business, despite claims to the contrary from proponents.
“You definitely have excluded a very large number of naturopaths,” Loertscher said.
Michael Kalfeldt, a Meridian Naturopathic practitioner, told IdahoReporter.com this week the bill could reduce the number of men and women offering services from 120 to 20, an 83 percent supply reduction.
Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, told colleagues the bill would not affect people like Karlfeldt and others. She said the naturopaths who’ve attended the accredited schools need legal permission to offer certain services, like diagnostic scans and imaging.
“This group would like to practice to the full extent of their education,” Packer said. “To me, this is wonderful legislation.”
Known for his nitpicking of legal language, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, warned the bill engenders confusion, could leave patients in a lurch and is the latest salvo in what he called “naturopathic wars.”
The bill, Luker confirmed, is an attempt by those educated in certain schools to exclude others from the practice.
Those who don’t meet the criteria laid out by the proposal and the oversight it would create would be barred from using the term doctor or any variant of that in advertising or signage.
Additionally, those without licenses would be forced to disclose their lack of licensed status to customers and receive written acknowledgment from patients that they don’t have state credentials.
Unlicensed practitioners must also tell customers they are “not licensed to practice medicine, surgery or naturopathic medicine or any other type of medicine.”
Karlfeldt wrote on his Facebook account Tuesday about the pressure the legislation would put on this business, which employs 15 workers.
“Because they are not licensed, not able to call themselves doctors and are not able to accept insurance it will make it near impossible for them to compete on the open market,” he wrote. “This very fact will force many of these doctors out of business.”
The Idaho Chapter of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the lead sponsor of the bill, said on its social media the legislation would not impede or negatively impact the work of Karlfeldt and others.
The bill now heads to the Idaho Senate. Karlfeldt and others have pledged to stop the measure in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, likely their last chance to stop the legislation from becoming law.