QUACKPOT MENACE "ICED" IN MINNESOTA...

June 22, 2000

Opinion by Tim Bolen

Barrett/Renner “Anti-Health Campaign” fizzles in Minnesota.

Minnesota recently passed, and signed into law, one of the most comprehensive health reform bills in the history of the United States.

The bill passes both houses of the State legislature with a huge majority, and was signed by the Governor despite a massive lobbying effort by what health leaders call "the minions of the drug barons."

Apparently, the people of the State of Minnesota woke up one morning and decided that they wanted “real health care” in their State. So they put a group together, wrote a definitive health bill, hand-carried it through the legislature, and up to the Governor’s desk, and said "Hey Jesse, sign here..." Jesse did.

They wanted their health bill to protect their right to freedom of choice, and to keep their practitioners free from harassment - while establishing guidelines. GOOD idea.

They did it. It’s done. The Governor signed the bill Thursday, May 11th, 2000. And now, Minnesota leads the nation with the best, most comprehensive health bill in the country. It is a law to copy, everywhere.

And, despite opposition from the "drug lord minions," they did it easily.

I’d say “Congratulations” to them, if they’d accept it - and maybe they will. But I have the feeling that Minnesota would shrug, and say something like “we just did what we needed to do - what’s the big deal?”

The fact is, it is a big deal - because Minnesota did it first, and they did it best.

So, whether you want to hear it, or not, Minnesota, “Congratulations.”

Oh, and by the way, “THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”

THE “QUACKPOT MENACE (Barrett, Renner, et al)” was there, of course, trying to stop “The People’s” efforts. But their performance was, well, in kind words, “laughable.”

Apparently Barrett and Renner, in the beginning, were confident that their local team in Minnesota could deal with the problem. “After all,” they must have said, “we have our very own legislator (‘Doc Mulder’) on tap.” “And,” they must have said, “we have our very own ‘quack museum - the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices’ - right there in Minneapolis. That should do it...”

But, it didn’t...

Despite the best efforts of Barrett’s Minnesota henchmen, who, to the apparent amusement of elected officials, screeched up and down the halls of the legislature screaming “this is a witchcraft bill,” the bill passed the House with a vote of 111 to 23. Stunned, I’d guess, Barrett’s local lead man muttered all the way back to his “museum.”

For the quackpots then, it was time to bring in the “Big Guns” and “show these Minnesotans Who’s Who.” So, on the scene pops Stephan Barrett (don’t call him doctor) himself - interviewed (yawn) on Minnesota Public Radio. And then, entering from stage left is “the man, himself,” the President of the National Council For Reliable Health Information - John Renner - who, apparently, tells Minnesota legislators that “A multi-million dollar New York law firm is responsible for the Minnesota Health Freedom bill.”

I heard the legislators' laughter could be heard in South Dakota...

Did the mighty Renner and Barrett, the scions of so-called anti-quackery, have an effect on the bill’s future? Oh yeah! The Senate passed the health bill 80 to 1.

Then, of course, the Governor signed it.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Well, I suggest, in every State, it’s time to go to the next logical step...

For instance, isn’t it time for a “Physician’s Re-Training Act” - a bill designed to force MD s to upgrade their skills - or lose their licenses? MDs just don’t keep up with the needs of the public - they seem to want to just peddle dangerous drugs, or push costly, and unnecessary, “surgeries.”

And then, a “Physician’s Review Act,” where a citizen’s committee can review an MDs practice to determine whether he/she is using expensive, and personally profitable, drug “treatments” where he/she should be using natural “cures,” or dealing with the “cause” of an illness. This bill could provide for license removal and the seizure of assets of convicted offenders - the assets could be put into a fund for MD “victims.”

Then, a “Medical Board Revision Act,” designed to remove all MDs from state medical boards, and replace them with citizens (like they are doing in Ontario, Canada - right now). Give them a mandate to clean up the MD’s act - with police, assett seizure, and arrest, powers. MDs, as a group, have shown an inability to regulate themselves - and are abusing their regulatory power to stifle, and destroy, competition for health dollars.

Then a “Hospital Reform Act...” And then, and then,,,

Here's the story from the Minnesota Health Reform team, in their own words...

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Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project, 3236 17th Ave. S, #1, Minneapolis, MN 55407, (612) 721-3305

 

Health News June 6, 2000

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura signs ”Health Care Freedom of Access Bill.”

 

The “Complementary and Alternative Health Care Freedom of Access bill” in Minnesota was designed to protect freedom of access to health care in Minnesota. The Legislature, and the Governor, took on, and solved, a difficult problem facing Americans.

This successful reform caps a grassroots campaign, waged in Minnesota, over several years, to better assure consumer access to the kind of health care desired by Americans.

CONSUMER FREEDOM OF ACCESS: The bill has been hailed as a national bellweather signaling a long overdue recognition of freedom to practice for alternative health care practitioners. A consumer's freedom of access is dependent on the practitioner's freedom to practice, of course, much as the public's freedom of access to information rests on the writer's freedom to write freely and without suppression by state laws or actions.

The health freedom movement in Minnesota was galvanized in the mid-90s by high profile legal actions taken against the state's most prominent alternative health care practitioners, both licensed and unlicensed. One case involved St. Paul naturopathic doctor Helen Healy, who was charged with the "practice of medicine" without a license. Despite the absence of consumer complaints and any allegations of patient harm, the state's Medical Board sought to shut down Healy's practice immediately and permanently. The public outcry helped save Healy from being shut down; she settled out of court before her trial. But it also helped spur a new thirst for greater protection of consumer freedom of access and a desire to affirm the practitioner's right to practice with fairer treatment under the law.

A citizen 'legal committee" that researched the legal obstacles to health freedom eventually became the nonprofit Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project, which spearheaded the legal reform effort.

 

THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM for all unlicensed practitioners, including Helen Healy, is the overly broad definition, in most States, of the term "practice of medicine." The sweeping definition includes anyone who undertakes to diagnose, correct, treat or even prevent any disease, illness, pain or infirmity by any manner or means; such people are practicing medicine, according to existing law, and must be licensed medical doctors.

Nurses, dentists, chiropractors and other licensed health professionals escape charges of practicing medicine without a license because they have an exemption to the overly broad statute. But there is no such protection for the unlicensed alternative health care practitioner; they can be charged with practice of medicine whenever a complaint gets the medical board's attention.

The fallout of this legal vulnerability is far-ranging: it includes a fear of becoming too prominent, a fear of being too commercially successful, a fear of being the innovator and a fear of being seen as outspoken in criticizing the more commonly used methods of treatment.

As a result of the fear and intimidation, consumers can tend to be deprived of the benefits of the most honest discussions that they could have with their practitioners, and of the most innovative treatment methods.

The practitioners themselves may be forced into early retirement, or they and their treatment option, could be difficult to find.

LICENSURE AND TURF BATTLES: If the state of Minnesota deems it desirable to regulate an occupation, it is state policy to only regulate the occupation with the least restrictive manner and only when an occupation would pose an imminent risk of harm to the public. In view of that, legislative health committees have declined to allow licensure for currently unlicensed modalities such as naturopathy to go forward. A registration bill for massage therapists has also been tabled.

Licensure and registration approaches have other drawbacks; they seem to set up battle lines among practitioners, between those that would be allowed to practice under the proposed licensure and those that would be excluded. Minnesota's new approach to affirming health freedom avoids stirring up those kind of turf battles.

MINNESOTA’S HEALTH FREEDOM SOLUTION: To assure consumer access to as

many practitioners as possible, the state of Minnesota has set up a new office to provide government oversight to unlicensed practitioners. In turn, the practitioners practicing under the new statute will be exempt from criminal charges of practice of medicine without a license. The office will oversee those who are practicing "the broad domain of complementary and

alternative healing methods and treatments." Naturopathy, homeopathy and herbalism are just a few of the therapies listed in the statute as examples of practices that the new chapter of law deals with. A set of 24 rules of ethical conduct is given for the new office to oversee. The office will receive consumer complaints, investigate them, and enforce the ethical rules. The ethical rules include prohibitions against fraud, false or misleading advertising, sexual contact with a client, and inability to

practice "with reasonable safety … to the client." The rules of conduct are clearly not intended to allow suppression of therapies on the grounds that they are new or different from conventional practice. "The fact that a …practice may be a less customary approach to health care shall not constitute the basis of a disciplinary action per se," the new law states.

The new law takes effect July 1, 2000.

 

HOW THEY DID IT: A statewide grassroots lobbying effort by the reform project helped move the health freedom bill through the tougher committee battles. A core of about eight leaders meet one night a week for three years to drive the effort forward.

Serving as the reform project's legal consultant was Diane Miller who, supported by a volunteer legal team, formulated the freedom approach behind the bill. Miller along with citizen-turned-lobbyist Jerri Johnson, a local homeopath, led the lobbying work at the capitol. and helped to navigate the bill through 15 committees.

Consumers in all parts of the state - outstate as well as metro - played a role in reaching their elected officials. They gathered with their legislators in their districts to share their stories of the personal importance of alternative care options and to demand active reform. After a while, it was obvious that, for the people of Minnesota, this reform bill had very broad support.

THE CHIEF AUTHOR IN THE HOUSE was state Representative Lynda Boudreau, a republican. Her leadership in moving the bill through key house policy committees was crucial. With the help of supportive colleagues, Boudreau was able to move the bill through intense amendment discussions, meet the committees' concerns and produce a bill that would meet broad support.

THEN IT WAS LARGELY THE SENATE’S TURN, with the committee deadline clock ticking. State Senator Twyla Ring, a new democratic senator, dramatically piloted the bill through three hearings in one week. Senator Ring had agreed to take up the senate authorship after the death of a previous senate author, Senator Janet Johnson, last August. Elected in a special election to fill the vacancy left by Johnson's death, Sen. Ring, had been a personal friend of Johnson's. Sen. Ring became strongly committed to helping finish the senate journey for health freedom that her friend Janet had begun. With the help of many of her senate colleagues, she did just that.

After going through a conference committee, final passage in both houses was by strong margins. On May 1st, the House approved the bill by 110 to 23, following a final, lively debate. The final senate approval for the bill on May 4th was by a 58 to 1. The freedom train had arrived.

Governor Ventura's policy advisors supported the health freedom bill and the governor's office was deluged with calls from citizens urging that he sign the bill. Without fanfare, Ventura signed the bill May 11th.

Although the governor doesn't grant photo opportunities when signing bills, he is meeting later this month to meet and do photos with some of the citizens who were behind the landmark health freedom reform in Minnesota.

CONTACTS:

Leo Cashman, organizer 612 721-3305

Diane Miller, legal consultant & lobbyist c/o 612 721-3305

Nancy Hone , local homeopath 651 647-9908

Jerri Johnson, homeopath, lobbyist 651 688-6515

Rep. Lynda Boudreau, chief house author 651 296-8237

Sen. Twyla Ring, chief senate author 651 296-5419

Marillyn Beyer, health educator 612 926-5456