Senator Tom Harkin pulls a fast one: Alternative medical practitioners will be part of the “healthcare workforce” under health care reform

Earlier this year, I wrote about Senator Tom Harkin’s attempt to hijack President Obama’s health care reform plans in order to inject quackery in the form of “alternative” or “integrative” medicine into the effort. Specifically, he wants to legitimize quackery by including it in any federal plan under the guise of “preventative care.” He even went so far as to invite the Four Horsement of the Woopocalypse into the Senate to testify and castigate the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for being too scientific and not proving that any of his favored woo works. Of course, his latest antics are merely the latest in a long line of his support for quackery. After all, he’s the Senator who, more than anyone else, is responsible for the scientific atrocity that is NCCAM, starting with the Office of Unconventional Medicine 17 years ago, which he nurtured as it grew into the Office of Alternative Medicine and ultimately into the woo juggernaut that it is now.

We haven’t heard much from Harkin lately, but, have no fear. He’s still hard at work on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee pushing “wellness” and “prevention,” which in Harkin-speak are codewords for everything from the reasonable (diet and exercise) to complete quackery, and he’s doing it totally under the radar. For example, buried in a news report on the Senate’s work on the massive 600-page health care reform bill, along with measures on malpractice and other issues, is this little gem:

“This prevention and wellness section — if we can hold this and keep it in the final bill as we go all the way through — is going to make a huge difference in how we practice medicine,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

Among the amendments adopted by the committee this week were:

  • A provision to allow medical students to defer loan repayment until they finish their residencies
  • Limits on the types of expenses medical students cover with loan funds
  • An provision to promote and fund research on pain management
  • Inclusion of alternative medicine workers in the bill’s definition of “healthcare workforce”

Ah, yes. “Prevention and wellness.” The “alternative” medicine Trojan Horse that looks so sturdy, so reasonable, on the outside but in whose belly resides all forms of pseudoscience. And Harkin’s doing it all completely under the radar, out of site. He knows how few people, faced with a 600+ page bill, will read every last section of it. Fewer still will understand just what is being proposed by this one little change in the definition of “healthcare workforce.” It opens the door to acupuncturists, reiki practitioners, homeopaths, and chiropractors to be considered part of the “healthcare workforce.” (Actually, chiropractors already are in essence considered part of the health care workforce, which is tolerable as long as they stick to back complaints; the problem is, as Simon Singh has shown, is that many of them think they can treat allergies, and all manner of other diseases through spinal manipulation.) Heck, come to think of it, what’s to keep someone like Hulda Clark from being considered part of the “healthcare workforce”? What sorts of standards would determine who would and would not be part of the healthcare workforce”? Anyone want of hazard a guess?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Senator Harkin is a savvy operator, an, unless something is done, he is the one who will determine the face of healthcare reform.