A bill to add numerous new government regulations for Naturopathic physicians will head to the Idaho Senate’s amending order for changes.
The controversial bill cleared the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on a 5 to 4 vote Monday after three hours of debate on the issue that captured years of frustration between two warring parties.
Naturopathic physicians and their professional organizations supported the controversial legislation, telling senators the bill would give practitioners more privileges, such as writing prescriptions and performing some surgeries.
This group’s lobbyist, Kris Ellis, said the bill wouldn’t box anyone out of practicing other types of nature-oriented care.
“It doesn't exclude anybody,” Ellis said.
She added the bill would, contrary to some opinions, add options for health care.
“We don’t try to put everyone in one box,” she said. “We allow as many options as possible.”
The bill would give licenses to physicians who’ve trained only at certain accredited colleges in the United States or Canada, a major sticking point for opponents.
The measure would also allow physicians from the first group be eligible for insurance payments, which could give them a significant advantage in the care market.
Members of the second group, led by Naturopathic practitioners Jason West of Pocatello and Michael Karlfeldt, opposed the bill because they believe it will make it very hard for them to compete.
“It creates an unequal and discriminatory playing field,” West said. He also rejected Ellis’ notion that the bill wouldn’t affect him or his colleagues.
“This is for all of the marbles,” West said. “This really does affect us.”
Idaho law features a section for licensing of Naturopaths like West and Karlfeldt, but the oversight board covering that law is vacant and has been for years due to the two groups’ bickering.
There’s some worry, as noted by Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker’s debate when the bill was on the House floor, that because the board is idle, Naturopaths would fall under regulation in the new law.
“It is usually the most current law that tends to rule,” Karlfeldt told the panel.
The two Naturopaths want lawmakers to amend the bill to allow for different paths to licensure, instead of requiring education only at those certain colleges. West, who trained in chiropractic care and then learned naturopathy, and Karlfedlt, who trained in Sweden, said the rules are exclusionary to otherwise competent people.
“I’ve got the goods,” West told the panel. “I have the education.:”
Dr. Sarah Rogers, a Naturopathic physician, said without the bill, those in her group can’t practice to their abilities.
“Right now, there’s not a level playing field for us,” she testified.
Sen. Sheryll Nuxoll, R-Grangeville, tried to kill the bill, saying the two parties need to get together on a compromise measure. But the committee majority, led by Sens. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, voted to send it on to the amending order for changes.
“I don't want to continue not allowing them to practice,” Hagedorn said of the Naturopathic physicians.
Sens. Fred Martin, R-Boise, and John Tippets, R-Bennington, aided Nuxoll’s charge to kill the measure.
Martin said the bill might be a positive step, but wondered if it would restrict people like West and Karlfeldt. “I want to give and and I dont want to take away,” he explained. “I think this is taking away.”
Tippets opposed the move to the amending order because there is less time for debate and consideration of possible alterations to important legislation.
“That’s not for the place to make these kinds of significant changes,” Tippets said.
The Senate rarely uses the amending order, so there’s no time frame for when senators might take up the measure next. With the session winding down in Boise, lawmakers are likely to address the bill in the next week or two.
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