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Eye On Boise

Naturopath licensing on the rocks

The fight over how to do naturopath licensing in Idaho has gotten so bitter that the entire licensing law could get repealed. The AP reports that Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, has found "total disagreement" between two camps among naturopaths; click below to read the full story from AP reporter John Miller.

Warring ID naturopaths may see license repeal
Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Rival Idaho groups of alternative health care practitioners remain deeply divided over who should be able to perform minor surgeries and write prescriptions, vexing one Republican senator so much she aims to dump a 2005 licensing law.

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, cites "total disagreement" between the Idaho Chapter of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Idaho Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

The AANP chapter would require physicians to attend one of five U.S. Department of Education-accredited naturopathy colleges and pass a national test to get a license, something other states have done to distinguish between training levels and to protect the public.

The IANP, with many members in southern and eastern Idaho, contends this narrow standard won't accommodate people with years of experience and skills, but not a formal education from one of the schools.

"The groups have failed to produce rules for licensure since the code was put in place," Broadsword told The Associated Press. "We always intended for licensing to require an accredited education."

Accredited U.S. schools are near Seattle, Portland, Ore., Tempe, Ariz., and Bridgeport, Conn. In Canada, there's the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Ontario. Washington and Oregon require licensees to attend an accredited school and pass the national test.

In 2008, lawmakers held long, acrimonious meetings on the subject but found no resolution. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter shuffled the five-member state Board of Naturopathic Medical Examiners, hoping new blood would resolve the impasse.

At a Dec. 3 board meeting, however, legislative staff helping to draft the latest round of proposed licensing rules told members they'd fallen short.

"The proposed rules simply mirror the statute rather than clarify or explain the requirements for examination and education and do not address the concerns raised in the 2008 Legislature," according to the meeting's minutes.

The five-member state board is split between two members from each of the rival groups, plus former state Rep. Jack Barraclough, from Idaho Falls, appointed by Otter.

Barraclough, who has sided with those favoring a broader licensing standard, didn't return a phone call. Dr. Jeremiah Stevens, a board member from Coeur d'Alene who is allied with the AANP chapter, declined to comment.

The Idaho Medical Association, which represents doctors, has sided with the AANP chapter in opposing the latest rules proposal.

Though Idaho senators may be willing to follow Broadsword's lead in dumping the 2005 licensing law, her plan's fate in the House is shaky.

There, many libertarian-leaning lawmakers favor giving the Idaho board latitude to develop its own standards.

"It's an age-old argument: Who is qualified?" Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone and a member of the Health and Welfare Committee, told the AP. "There's more than one way to get your training."

Mika Tsongas is a Sandpoint naturopathic physician who spent tens of thousands of dollars to attend the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland. She's licensed in Oregon where she can write prescriptions, but can't in Idaho, due to the ongoing fight.

"We need standards that ensure the safety of the people we're prescribing things to," Tsongas said. "It ensures proper oversight and proper standards."

The AANP chapter fears the unresolved licensing issue is scaring qualified naturopathic physicians away from Idaho.

Unlicensed naturopaths would still be able to use heat, water, light, air and massage techniques, under Idaho's law. Still, advocates of broader standards say being excluded from licensing — and prohibited from writing prescriptions — would unfairly limit their practices.

As a result, the IANP, which supports the current rules proposal, says the state needs to develop its own examination and education requirements. Even so, Brenda Grogan, a Twin Falls naturopath and Board of Naturopathic Medical Examiners member who supports the broader standard, concedes the issue may be hopelessly mired.

"It's a political issue where somebody is scared to death they are going to lose their monopoly over naturopathy," Grogan said. "We've tried to talk it out. I don't care what you do, you could bend over backward and spin around 10 times, you're never going to get agreement, because there's two different philosophies."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Eye On Boise

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