by John Weeks, Publisher/Editor of The Integrator Blog News & Reports 

GreenSurance takes a strange membership strategy to build health plan for “alternative medicine”

Over recent months the Integrator has been contacted regarding a business that is seeking to build “community membership for the first 100% alternative medicine coop.”  The business is a “patent-pending” GreenSurance.  The pitch begins: “How does the sound of a health plan that covers 100% of natural, holistic and alternative care especially in serious illness seem to you?” The appeal is to those who oppose the sick care model and think “outside the box of mainstream medicine.”  Now the twist: “GreenSurance is NOT an insurance company.” Rather it is apparently, in its first phase at least, a grass-roots movement to foment change. Membership costs $100.00 a year or $10 a month, which is described as a way to “open the insurance vault to change.”

by John Weeks, Publisher/Editor of The Integrator Blog News & Reports

GreenSurance takes a strange membership strategy to build health plan for “alternative medicine”

Over recent months the Integrator has been contacted regarding a business that is seeking to build “community membership for the first 100% alternative medicine coop.”  The business is a “patent-pending” GreenSurance.  The pitch begins: “How does the sound of a health plan that covers 100% of natural, holistic and alternative care especially in serious illness seem to you?” The appeal is to those who oppose the sick care model and think “outside the box of mainstream medicine.”  Now the twist: “GreenSurance is NOT an insurance company.” Rather it is apparently, in its first phase at least, a grass-roots movement to foment change. Membership costs $100.00 a year or $10 a month, which is described as a way to “open the insurance vault to change.”

Phase 1 as described on the site appears to merely be the development of a power base.  Phase 2 is basically the offering of a discount plan for up to 30% off all participating providers in the GreenSurance network. Finally, Phase 3 introduces the ideal of the health plan noted above: “My Green Insurance Part B Critical Illness Catastrophic Care Plan – Qualified Members receive 100% Coverage** via Network Providers.” The asterisks are significant. The 100% coverage is “up to the policy limit.” In addition, the “full coverage” appears to be limited to those who can prove “critical illness and 24 months or less life expectancy.” The website’s page on participating providers tells them that they can manage their reimbursement rate by the level of their donation to GreenSurance. The blog site has two posts: one on GMOs, the other on fluoride. The founder is cancer survivor and insurance professional Kari Gray.

Comment: The first encounter with GreenSurance looks like an attempt to create a new health plan. A colleague who has been an accomplished professional in business and policy told me about it.  I was intrigued: we need to spend creative energy coming up with new reimbursement models. Yet the closer one looks in, the less seems to be here. Many health plans offer discount networks. Nothing new there. People with health savings accounts can already get some pre-tax quasi coverage for many alternatives to regular care – as long as it is for clearly for a medical condition. The asterisk reminds me of the very flimsy first  response of Blue Cross to the Washington State insurance mandate in 1996 when they essentially offered (nearly) 100% coverage … up to $500 total for chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and naturopathic services. This is one odd mishmash. I wonder if I should even be writing about it.

 

Class action lawsuit filed against Whole Foods to stop sale of homeopathic medicines

A $5-million class action lawsuit has been filed against Whole Foods that is meant to push the natural foods retail giant to end sales of homeopathic products. According to this Law360 article, the complaint states that “consumers unwittingly spend millions of dollars annually on products ‘that are worthless.’” Whole Foods “unfairly, deceptively and unjustly enriches itself on the backs of consumers in order to turn a corporate profit.” The products at issue include Cough Ease for Kids, Cough Ease, Flu Ease and Arnica Montana 30C. The plaintiffs are four Whole Foods shoppers who live in Florida and New York who allegedly bought the Arnica Montana 30C to help with pains related to a bruise. The layers argue: “Whole Foods is not only taking advantage of consumers’ desire for natural medicine, but also deceiving consumers into believing that Whole Foods’ products are effective, regulated drugs that are held to the same standards as true medical drugs and non-homeopathic OTC drugs.” The case is Mario Herazo et al. v. Whole Foods Market Inc.

Comment: This lawsuit comes after the German company Heel stopped doing business in the United States due to a threatened legal action. Homeopathy aficionado Dana Ullman, MPH, CCH, shares that virtually all of the large homeopathic companies “have been sued by these and other greedy lawyers who hope that the companies will settle with them for a million or so.”  He says some have successfully found strategies to get out of these suits. One large giant apparently settled, which likely spread blood in the water. A group of homeopathic interests is beginning to meet to see if some organized response is in order.

 

Emerging integrated practice department: CVS officially ends sales of cigarettes in all of its stores 

On the day that the pharmacy chain CVS officially ended sales of cigarettes in its 7,700 stores, the American Public Health Association sent a release listing other efforts to do the right thing and follow suit. Target and Wegmans have “removed tobacco from their shelves.” Twenty-seven state attorney generals have sent letters to pharmacies in their states asking them to follow suit. APHA has a petition up at change.org to “stop selling tobacco products in pharmacies and clinics.” CVS anticipates losing $2-billion in annual revenues through their decision to stop selling cigs.

Comment: Duh is of course a first response. Think of doctors in movies in the 1950s, as in real life then, examining patients with ashes dangling from their cigarettes. The level of non-integration of a life that allows sales of cancer sticks in places nominally devoted to health is profound. (I speak as a person who kept an Obama-habit for much of my first 25 years in these fields.) So, instead of shrugging finally, let’s honor big time these more thoughtful leaders of the medical industry who are trying to embrace what participation in a system of health creation might look like. When Berwick said the turn toward health will “be more radical” than anything the industry has yet engaged, I suspect that re-shaping business models and parting with non–aligned billions is part of the anguish Berwick has imagined. This is a great if long overdue step. I am signatory number 5,161 on the AHPA petition. AHPA is shooting for 14,840.

 

American Botanical Council reports herbal sales up 7.9% in 2013

According to a September 3, 2013 release from the American Botanical Council (ABC), sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States increased by 7.9% in 2013. Sales reached a total estimated figure of six billion dollars for the first time. These statistics are in a new report published in the current issue of ABC’s HerbalGram. The top-selling herbs of 2013 “in the mainstream multi-outlet channel” were, as ABC reported: horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a key ingredient in throat drops; yohimbe (Pausinystalia johimbe), used in numerous athletic performance and sexual enhancement products; cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), popular primarily for its claimed benefit of helping to prevent urinary tract infections; black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), a popular aide to manage menopausal symptoms; and senna (Senna alexandrina), used as a stimulant laxative. Says ABC executive director Mark Blumenthal: “Consumers continue to express strong demand for a wide variety of herbs, phytomedicines, and other plant-based ingredients for their many health benefits.”

Comment: Consumers are rather loudly stating: “Damn the naysaying academic research, full speed ahead!” Notable is the prominence of mouth-drops (horehound) and laxatives (senna) as major sellers.