Molina Healthcare, one of the two administrators of Utah’s Medicaid program, will now reimburse native American patients who choose to use the services of a traditional healer.
Following the success of a trial program in New Mexico, the insurer has extended the “Traditional Medicine” Benefit to its list of billable healthcare services in Utah. The $100 benefit can by applied to any traditional care practice, such as herbal remedies from a medicine man or a purifying sweat lodge ceremony with a spiritual healer. Beneficiaries must be receiving Medicaid and a member of a federally recognized tribe. A care manager qualifies each candidate but is not allowed to ask any questions about the care chosen, which is considered sacred in native America culture. Molina has pledged to spend $10,000 on these grants, which means that up to 100 beneficiaries will be able to take advantage of the program.
In Utah, native Americans comprised approximately 1.5% of the population as of 2005.
In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Molina’s chief medical officer emphasizes that while it would be nice to see an improvement in health outcomes, the real goal of the program is to reach out to an underserved population. ”This population has, for good reason, been skeptical of modern, Western medicine. We hope to reach out to people and get them into treatment.”
While I applaud this effort to provide culturally sensitive care to a specific ethnic population, I wonder what would happen if a nonmember of a federally recognized tribe applied for this benefit? And if said nonmember was not approved, would that be grounds for a discrimination suit? Anyone know the answer?