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Medical groups clash over insurance coverage of herbal medicine


By Lee Hyo-jin

A pilot program rolled out by the government to include several types of herbal medicine in treatments covered by national health insurance was welcomed by practitioners of traditional Korean medicine. It, however, immediately provoked backlash from Western medical doctors.

As the government has plans to expand the coverage for more herbal medicine in the future following the progress of the trial program, the mixed reactions of the two medical groups may deepen into another dispute.

Under the pilot program, which started on Nov. 20, patients at traditional Korean medicine clinics who are prescribed treatments for menstrual pain, facial paralysis, or the aftereffects of cerebrovascular diseases, pay only half of the fee for the herbal medicine, as the rest is covered by state insurance.

The three-year test run is aimed at reducing the financial burden of patients and establishing a verified system to ensure the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicine, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Around 8,700 clinics providing traditional Korean medicine treatments across the country ― approximately 62 percent of the total ― have agreed to participate in the program.

Why Western medical doctors oppose

The announcement was immediately met with strong backlash from the Korea Medical Association (KMA), the largest Western medical doctors’ group in the country with more than 130,000 members. The association strongly condemned the government’s decision through a press release, calling it a “nationwide clinical trial using unverified medicine.”

They argued that easing public access to traditional Korean medicine and related herbal therapy will pose a risk to people’s health as they claim the safety of the treatments have not been adequately verified and there is no scientific evidence for their efficacy.

The association also pointed out that the program may lead to poor quality of herbal medicine, due to a shortage of certified herbal medication dispensaries and lenient control over them. While most small traditional Korean medicine clinics have own dispensaries, some large ones have outside dispensaries make the medicine.

“There are only five outside herbal medication dispensaries in the country certified by the government. This means that those five facilities will be preparing all the herbal medicines for over 8,700 clinics during the pilot program period,” KMA member Kim Gyo-woong said at a press conference, Nov. 23.

“The mass production system may lead to failure in quality control and safety issues, and considering the current lax control over dispensaries, the system may lead to illicit manufacturing of drugs,” he added.

In addition, the KMA stressed that the health authorities should focus more on the unresolved issues surrounding the side effects of traditional medicine.

More than half of medical disputes reported in relation to traditional medicine treatments were about herbal medicine, followed by Chuna manual therapy, acupuncture, and skin care, the association said, citing recent data from the Korea Consumer Agency.

“The government must immediately retract the policy which only puts public safety at risk, and launch a full investigation on all herbal dispensaries and prohibit the operation

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health

LGBT advocacy groups sue over Trump diversity training order

Trump’s executive order explicitly prohibits contractors from using any workplace training “that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.”

The Labor Department clarified that “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating” includes using concepts in training that suggest “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” or that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”

The lawsuit argues that the order violates freedom of speech protections and is overly vague as to what conduct would violate the order.

The advocacy groups say that if the order is allowed to stand, “more people will fall out of care, become homeless, fail to get tested, decline to take a vaccine when one becomes available, sicken, and even die.”

Opposition building: Groups from across the political spectrum have lined up in opposition to Trump’s order.

More than 150 trade groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have urged the president to abandon the executive order, warning that it will “lead to non-meritorious investigations, and hinder the ability of employers to implement critical programs to promote diversity and combat discrimination in the workplace.”

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Urban League and National Fair Housing Alliance also filed a lawsuit over the order late last month.

Source Article

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health

South Dakota medical groups promote masks, countering Noem

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s largest medical organizations on Tuesday launched a joint effort to promote mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the state suffers through one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, a move that countered Gov. Kristi Noem’s position of casting doubt on the efficacy of wearing face coverings in public.

As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have multiplied in recent weeks, the Republican governor has tried to downplay the severity of the virus, highlighting that most people don’t die from COVID-19. Noem, who has staked out a reputation for keeping her state free from federal government mandates to stem the virus’ spread, has repeatedly countered the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to wear face coverings in public.

Shortly after the Department of Health reported that the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 broke records for the third straight day on Tuesday, people who represent doctors, nurses, hospitals, school administrators and businesses huddled to promote mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing. They warned the state’s hospitals could face a tipping point in their ability to care for COVID-19 patients.

“Masking is a simple act that each one of us can participate in and it can save lives,” said Dr. Benjamin Aaker, the president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. “If you mask, that life could be your mother, father, your friend, or even your own.”

Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury said the governor does not oppose all mask-wearing, but is trying to promote a “nuanced” approach to masks. She has said it is appropriate to wear masks around people with symptoms of COVID-19 or in hospitals. But she has not encouraged people to wear face coverings in public, as recommended by the CDC.


October has already become the state’s deadliest during the pandemic, with 152 people dying. Health officials have tallied 375 total deaths from COVID-19.

The groups calling for mask-wearing detailed the upheaval caused by virus infections — from school administrators struggling to conduct contract tracing to businesses worried about the economic impacts of widespread outbreaks.

The state’s prisons have seen the greatest surge in cases in recent weeks. Roughly one out of every three inmates statewide have an active infection.

The state has reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. There were 1,226 new cases per 100,000 people, meaning that one in roughly every 82 people tested positive. The Department of Health reported 989 new cases on Tuesday.

The rise in hospitalizations has forced the state’s two largest hospital systems — Sanford Health and Avera Health — to alter the logistics of some elective procedures to free up space for the influx of COVID-19 patients.

There were 395 people hospitalized by COVID-19 statewide, according to the Department of Health. About 34% of general-care hospital beds and 38% of Intensive Care Units statewide remained available on Tuesday.

Health care providers will hit an unmanageable load of

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