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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 19, 1991, Vol. 09, Issue 15

Oakar Bill Mandates Federal Employee's Access to Chiropractic

By Steve Kelly, managing editor
Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio), has reintroduced the Employees Health Care Freedom-of-Choce Act (H.R. 384) into the House of Representatives. This legislation would require insurers of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to reimburse chiropractors, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists for their services. In addition, the bill would provide direct access to these three health care providers without first obtaining physician referral.

In a letter to her colleagues, Rep. Oakar expressed the importance of freedom of choice for the 10 million participants in the FEHBP: "Health care providers...are hurt by this kind of discrimination which discourages patients from seeking their services."

The FEHBP currently provides some $12 billion in health care services to federal workers, retirees, and their dependents. The program offers 19 different health plans, 14 of which provide chiropractic coverage.

This is the fourth consecutive Congress that such a bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives. A 1986 version of the Oakar bill (co-sponsored by over 100 members) was unanimously approved by the House, but died in the Senate.

The ACA reports that it has lobbied for support of the Oakar bill on Capitol Hill. Dr. David Redding, ACA chairman of the board, says the appeal of the Oakar bill is in the expansion of access to care, without mandating additional services.

H.R. 384 is not Rep. Oakar's first show of support for chiropractic. It was her political influence that got the ACA an invitation to testify last year before a House subcommittee hearing on health care for federal employees. The chiropractic profession has an important ally in Mary Oakar. She's been characterized in 50 Plus magazine (published by Jack Anderson), as "One of the ten best legislators in Congress."

The reform of the FEHBP is under way. Some see the attempts to reform federal health care as a precursor to a national health care policy. Paul Kelly, the ACA's assistant director of governmental relations says: "If the new federal employee system works, Congress will be tempted to expand it on a national scale.

Steve Kelly
Assistant Editor

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