Insurance coverage for naturopathic doctors is one the great frontiers in medicine at the moment, though you may not know it. While much of the country continues to argue about the Affordable Care Act, quietly entering the scene are naturopathic doctors, who are working to set the scene for when our healthcare system transforms from a way to make sure you can pay for care go terribly wrong, into a way to keep you healthy so things don't head south in the first place. Long-term health savings will start with guaranteeing access to medical care, but won't end there; the true health savings won't come until healthcare starts in our homes, our lives, our grocery stores, and in our public places. This greater phase of healthcare means education, and education means naturopathic doctors.

Leading the way were Connecticut, Washington, Oregon and Vermont, four trailblazers in healthcare. Following soon behind were Montana and New Hampshire, and we are now starting to see the tide turning in Maine and Hawaii as well. While this is a small number of states, it has an outsized impact in the US. Naturopathic doctors have always punched above their weight class, and that trend is continuing in the realm of cost-effectiveness. The evidence that naturopathic medicine saves money is mounting, and the message is getting out.

While insurance coverage is still expanding, it's already become clear that there's a gap forming. Though patients may have insurance coverage for naturopathic doctors throughout most of their adult life, as soon as they hit 65 and enroll in Medicare, that coverage disappears. In some cases, these patients will have had a naturopathic doctor as their primary care provider for 15 or 20 years, only to have that primary care provider taken from them because Medicare doesn't cover naturopathic doctors. Therefore, last week, naturopathic doctors and students from around the country came to Washington, DC to lobby for Medicare coverage for NDs. In addition to the fact that naturopathic medicine helps reduce healthcare costs, including naturopathic doctors in Medicare helps promote continuity of care, which has a major effect on determining healthcare outcomes.

Naturopathic doctors not only emphasize the education and self-care that is so important to the long-term goals of our healthcare system, but also the importance of the doctor-patient relationship that is being lost in our modern medical system. While our healthcare system allows for patients to bounce around between specialists, with little oversight to how things connect, naturopathic doctors emphasize continuity and a patient's whole experience.