Alaska association of naturopathic Doctors

House Bill 40 and Senate Bill 38: Alaska Naturopathic Health Care Reform

HB 40 and SB 38 were introduced in the Alaska House and Senate in December, 2021. The bills have until the end of legislative session in 2022 to pass both houses of the legislature and be signed by the governor. The bills sponsors are Rep. Bart Lebon, (R)-Fairbanks and Sen. Scott Kawasaki, (D)-Fairbanks. HB 40 has been referred to House Labor and Commerce and Finance Committees. SB 38 has been referred to Senate Health and Social Services, Labor and Commerce and Finance Committees. As of May, 2021 SB 38 passed Senate Health and Social Services.

To receive updates when the bill is scheduled for hearings, moves committees or is up for a vote, you can use the Alaska Legislature's SMS Bill Tracking: Text a bill number (HB40 and/or SB38) to 559-245-2529 to enroll in text alerts. You will receive an enrollment confirmation and instructions on how to stop receiving alerts.

To share your thoughts on the legislation or to find out how to help please email us at: aknaturopaths@gmail.com

Problem

Alaska law severely limits the scope of practice for licensed naturopathic doctors, preventing them from providing care that is standard to their training and practiced commonly in other U.S. states. These limitations serve to:

  • Unnecessarily restrict practice by fully qualified primary care practitioners.

  • Require costly duplicative services.

  • Limit access to healthcare - particularly in rural areas.


Solution

HB 40 and SB 38 establishes a clear scope of practice for naturopathic doctors which reflects their education and training. Among other things, the bills allow licensed practitioners to perform minor office procedures (examples include sutures, wart removal, IUD placement and removal), and issue vitamins, minerals and non-controlled substance prescription medications.

Rationale

  • Allowing naturopathic doctors to practice the full scope of their training will increase the number of primary care providers in Alaska. This will improve healthcare access and address the shortage of primary care providers in the state.

  • The recommended changes reflect the actual training and qualifications of naturopathic doctors, who graduate from accredited 4-year medical programs with more than 4,000 hours of training and clinical rotations.

  • Removal of overly restrictive regulations means patients can access their medications from their primary care provider without the need for duplicative appointments and costs.

  • Naturopathic doctors’ primary focus is on disease prevention, rather than symptom and medication management, helps provide good quality of life and positive health outcomes for patients over time. In the long-run, this type of care saves money for consumers, insurers and the state.

  • In Alaska, naturopathic doctors have a more limited scope of practice than other healthcare providers in Alaska with equal or lesser training, though naturopathic doctors practice safely under the complete scope in many other states.

  • Major health care networks, like the Providence system, include naturopathic doctors in their integrative health care models in other states.  

Regulating naturopathic doctors appropriately will encourage more young practitioners to move to Alaska and serve Alaskans. Naturopathic doctors qualify for Indian Health Service’s national loan repayment program aimed at increasing access health care access in remote Alaska, but are unable to make use of this program due to the limited scope of practice.



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