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What the Supreme Court Decision Means for Integrative Medicine

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's health Issues page and our Politics and Democracy page.

You aren't likely to read this anywhere else .

To everyone's surprise, John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, didn't exactly approve or disapprove of Obama's healthcare law. He simply rewrote important parts of it and then approved it. So what do these changes mean for integrative medicine?

The most important change Roberts made for integrative medicine is that he changed the mandate, which in turn has truly major implications for financing integrative treatments. Under President Obama's legislation, it was a legal requirement to buy an insurance policy that met all US government requirements. Under the law as modified by Roberts, it becomes a "lawful choice" (his own words) not to buy this government-defined insurance, to buy some other kind of insurance, or to buy no insurance at all.

The financial consequence is the same. Under the original legislation, you paid a "penalty" for not complying with the law. Under Roberts, you owe a tax but can get yourself exempted from it by buying government-approved insurance. Since the financial consequences are the same, is there a difference?

Yes there is. Studies show conclusively that people are not only motivated by money. Most people, quite apart from the cost, do not want to violate the law. If the law says they must buy the government's version of insurance, they will. If they are told it is a "lawful choice" not to buy it, they may not, even if there is a financial cost attached to it, especially if the cost is not too high.

The cost of not buying government-defined insurance under Obama's legislation is much less than buying it. The first year cost (in 2014) for an individual is $95. This increases to $695 in 2016 and then goes up with "inflation." Households will either pay the greater of this or 1% of their total income, rising to 2.5% in 2016.

But how does this matter for integrative medicine in particular?