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Massage Today
March, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 03

Health Care Reform and the Massage Profession

A Crisis Too Great to be Wasted

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB

The current economic downturn is a crisis "to great too be wasted," according to our new president's chief of staff, and we will soon see some form of socialized medicine. It is not a question of if, it is a question of what and when. The point of this dose of reality is this: How is the massage and bodywork profession positioned to maintain its viability when health care is nationalized?

Health and health care is not really a right, it is a responsibility. Sadly, people in general do not want to take that responsibility and further, they want someone else to pay for their own irresponsibility and misfortune. We are in a period of rewarding bad behavior and poor decisions.

When "the people" ask the government to take over their personal responsibilities, this transfers individual rights and freedoms to the government. (And politicians can hardly wait.) The government that controls the health of its people controls its people. Ultimately, the State wants to manage its "human resources" (that's you and me) to maximize productivity for the State. It will take awhile, incrementalism is essential, but eventually it leads to population control.

Allopaths Versus Massage Therapists

In a government run system in the United States, "traditional medicine" (allopathy) will rule. Retirement is very unproductive and bad for the environment. In between, the allopaths get to skim their profits. Where does a health-based paradigm fit in? Think about it if you dare. Only a significant shift in societal consciousness (awareness) will change this.

The pharmaceutical-medical lobbies have the most money and thus access to the best politicians money can buy. The alternative health movement's window of opportunity is rapidly being closed, much to the delight of the allopathic system. Alternative providers tend to promote health and allopaths abhor health.

If that statement shocks you, and it is suppose to, remove your emotion and objectively look at our current health care delivery system. There is no economic incentive to the system to get or keep people healthy. They only make money off of sickness and symptoms. There is relatively little money to be made curing conditions, and even less preventing them. There are huge amounts of money to be made treating never-ending symptoms. This is why effective cures, cancer cures for example, are suppressed or run out of the country. Follow the money trail. You have to see the overall structure and philosophy of the system. Once you can, it is crystal clear. Of course there are exceptions within the system.

 - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark There will be a potential opportunity to bring wellness based care to the forefront in a nationalized system and that could be huge for us. It could save money and prevent a great deal of suffering (like 250,000 people dying from the allopath's admitted mistakes each year). Sadly, the government is not interested in cost-effectiveness or optimizing your wellness. It rewards inefficiency and ineptness. Allopathic sickness care is the epitome of both.

Current Bill in the House of Representatives

How will massage and bodywork, as a profession, be affected by the implementation of socialized medicine? It could be as benign as being left alone. If the Clinton plan is revived, we could have to become employees of hospitals or physicians or face being felons. There is currently a universal health care bill in the House of Representatives, HR-676. In this bill there are provisions for alternative providers to participate in the plan as long as they are licensed. This means our colleagues in states that are not licensed or that have some lesser form of regulation than full state licensure could be put out of business. Also, one of the three ways HR-676 will be funded is with taxes on the self-employed. That's a lot of us.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services' first first assignment will be handling health care reform. Obama's top pick for Health Secretary, former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, abruptly withdrew his nomination after admitting his failure to pay about $140, 000 in back taxes. While Daschle is out, his nomination gives us some guess as to the types of policies we will see after an eventiual appointment. Daschle, who was voted out of office by his own constituents in November 2004, has said the Clinton plan failed because it had too many details. Instead he proposed to pass a skeletal bill and let bureaucrats make the administrative rules that will fill in the details of the plan.

[Editor's note: As of press time, the appointment of the Secretary of Health and Human Services has not been made.]

The Crisis is Too Great to be Wasted

Bureaucrats are not very supportive of us. If you doubt this, notice how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration treats herbs and supplements. Notice how the Department of Agriculture treats the organic food movement. There are plenty of precedents to make one quite concerned about how the bureaucracy might treat us and what amount of freedom they would give us to do therapy.

Who is going to watch out and stand up for us when this "health care reform" is created? Who is going to be the voice of alternative providers? Who will offer a serious wellness model beyond mandatory allopathic tests and vaccinations?

Where are our beloved membership organizations on this issue? Are they ready to represent you, to protect you, to insure you are at least allowed to continue to practice? Will they stand idly by and let us be put under the thumb of allopathic gatekeepers, making us unwanted slaves in the physical therapy departments? If you care about this, you might want to find out what their plans are, or if they are just counting on hope. Hope has never accomplished anything.

Take Action: What We Can Do?

It will be in the best interests of all of us to be in contact with our U.S. Representatives and Senators and let them know we deserve a place as the first door providers we are now, in any new system they may implement. We need to lobby strongly for our right to practice therapy both with and without gatekeeper supervision. Let me be clear on this. If you want to work for the government that should be your choice, but if you want to work for the patient, outside of the government system like most of us are now, you should have that right too.

If we are forced to become employees of hospitals or physicians or can only access patients through controlled referral, we will not last long. Remember, they ran manual therapy out of medicine here a long time ago. It is not profitable enough.

To survive as first door providers, we will have to lobby individually and through our associations. Are we up to the task? If all else fails, we may have to play dumb and say, "Hey, its just a massage."

Happy kite flying! See you in May with how we may get sucker-punched by research.

Click here for more information about Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB.


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