(MENAFN – Swissinfo) After being on the edge of the health care system, increasing public demand for complementary drugs has led to increased regulation in an effort to eliminate bad apples and improve patient safety. This is the result of many trials and errors.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic became a very tiring topic, the Swiss Cantonese central government in Lucerne was preoccupied with changing its health law. (Health problems are under the scope of 26 Swiss cantons which often means a lack of uniformity throughout the country).
In early March, a new draft of the Lucerne health law was presented with one main objective: introducing work permits for alternative medicine practitioners in the fields of homeopathy, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and European Traditional Medicine.
‘These practices pose certain health risks to the population. With the introduction of authorization requirements, the canton of Lucerne wants to ensure that only people who meet certain minimum professional skills are active, “Alexander Duss from the Lucerne cantonment of health department told swissinfo.ch.
But such conditions existed before and were revoked. In 2006, Lucerne decided to remove the previous work license requirements for alternative health practitioners. At that time there were too many different courses for the authorities to verify professional qualifications, according to Hanspeter Vogler, head of the canton of Lucerne health department.
In the end, because it cannot guarantee uniform quality in this sector, the canton decided to leave it up to patients to determine whether their professional choice for treatment was the right one or not.
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- Arabic (ar) ما الذي يَدفع شركات التأمين الصحي إلى تغطية العلاجات البَديلة؟
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- Japan (ja) ス イ ス で メ オ ー ー ー ー の の の の の の の の の の の の の の の の の の の
- Portuguese (pt) Porque as medicinas alternativas são cobertas pelo seguro de saúde
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Everything changed in 2009 as a result of Switzerland’s direct democratic system. That year, two-thirds of Swiss citizens chose to include alternative medicines in the list of constitutional services covered by health insurance. Integrated for the first time in 1999, they were not included in the government’s list in 2005 amid rising national health costs by using the argument that they failed to meet the criteria of efficacy, cost effectiveness and suitability.
As a result of the 2009 ballot, five alternative therapies – homeopathy, holistic medicine, herbal medicine, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine – were included in the basic health insurance package (mandatory for all Swiss residents) based on trials provided they were managed by a certified medical doctor. This step brings alternative medicine back into the fold of public health services. The authorities can no longer ignore it now because it once again accounts for a portion of the national health costs.
So they began to develop a standard national-level examination – for practitioners who are not doctors – that would lead to a federal diploma. Starting in 2015, naturopaths in the fields of homeopathy, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and European traditional medicine can obtain diplomas that are recognized throughout the country.
“It’s always beneficial to have uniformity because health insurance companies are rather slow when it comes to changing care under complementary drug insurance packages. They are also under pressure to cut costs, ‘said Franz Rutz, president of the Ayurveda Ayurveda umbrella umbrella association.
The introduction of federal diplomas also encouraged many cantons – such as Lucerne – to introduce or reintroduce work licenses for naturopaths. To get it, Naturopaths must submit their personal details and a copy of their federal diploma.
Opportunities and challenges
Official licenses mean that those who get a federal diploma in naturopathy are exempt from paying value added tax (VAT). They are also automatically included in the National Register of Health Professionals and are considered health care workers: a big jump because they are on the periphery.
“With a territorial work permit, we are included in the primary health care system, for example now during the Covid-19 crisis, we are allowed to continue working,” said Alexandra Nievergelt, vice president of the Swiss Professional Organization for Traditional Chinese Medicine, noting that naturopaths must also comply with the rules and the same limits as doctors in the middle of coronavirus.
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He said that work licenses have also helped enable alternative medicine practitioners to participate in health projects with other medical professionals, something that was previously impossible.
On the other hand, changes to the territorial licensing system raise questions about the fate of those who do not have a federal diploma and are therefore not eligible to get a license to practice.
“We welcome the territorial work permit for the future because it helps ensure that only qualified practitioners work in our field,” Nievergelt said. “Even so we certainly want to make sure that today’s practitioners can continue to work.”
Lucerne has proposed giving practitioners five years of protection to get their federal diploma but some are not happy to sit for the exam even after gaining decades of experience in their fields. Disagreement over the exam has also caused branch groups among practitioners. For example, Ayurveda in Switzerland is now represented by four different associations and two schools because practitioners disagree about the way forward.
But it seems it’s too late for those who oppose licensing, because the waves have turned to standardization and homegenisation of alternative medicine in Switzerland. Acupuncturists already need licenses in 20 of the 26 Swiss cantons and Ayurveda therapists need one in 18 cantons (though most cantons speak French do not need it).
‘This is about having clarity about the quality of practitioners. They must have the right educational background, be able to make an accurate and competent diagnosis to provide health care, ‘said Rutz.
Alternative medicine: insurance and diploma
Five alternative therapies – homeopathic, holistic, herbal, and nerve therapy and traditional Chinese medicine – are included in the Swiss basic health insurance package. Treatment costs are reimbursed with basic insurance only if managed by a doctor.
The cost of all alternative and complementary therapies will only be reimbursed if the patient chooses a separate complementary health insurance package that costs extra. However, not all disciplines are recognized by insurance companies.
Two types of federal diplomas in alternative medicine are offered. Sophisticated is a naturopath where diploma holders can diagnose diseases and prescribe treatments such as herbal preparations. Disciplines that are recognized include homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and European traditional medicine. Practitioners who have this naturopathic diploma can obtain a citizenship work license.
The second category of federal diplomas is the complementary therapist category. Holders provide special care such as oil massage for healthy people or people with minor illnesses but they are not permitted to diagnose the disease. Disciplines recognized by the government include yoga, shiatsu, craniosacral therapy, and eutony.
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