Health Freedom Legal Services Network
The National Health Federation has proudly championed defining marks many times in health freedom’s history, and this important initiative is no exception.
We are pleased to announce that NHF is taking a lead coordinating role in establishing a nationwide “Health Freedom Legal Services Network.” The Network is being formed under the auspices of NHF, with the support of the National Center for Life & Liberty (NCLL), the Pastoral Medical Association (PMA), and the Legal Research Center (LRC).
When established, this Network of independent seasoned lawyers will serve as “go-to legal counsel” representing the diverse interests of integrative and alternative healthcare practitioners nationwide – with the primary goal of protecting and expanding their rights to practice.
Liberty, Equity, Fidelity, Security
The inalienable rights of individuals to receive integrative, alternative, and functional-based medicine and related protocols without governmental restrictions are, of course, dependent on healthcare practitioners capable of providing such services also having the freedom to determine and use such approaches without governmental interference.
Although NHF frequently calls on outside legal counsel to support NHF’s positions in various health-freedom matters, the Health Freedom Legal Services Network will expand NHF’s capabilities to provide effective legal assistance to NHF practitioner members and other practitioners nationwide wanting to offer integrative and alternative healthcare solutions to their patients free from adverse governmental regulation and control.
To these ends, a team of experienced lawyers who are individually and collectively committed to preserving and advancing practitioners’ rights to practice their healing arts will further empower NHF in the ongoing pursuit of our mission.
Driven by desire to spend more time with their chronically ill patients and provide more comprehensive integrated therapies, increasing numbers of practitioners offering integrative functional healthcare services are transitioning into primary care or private specialty practices (i.e., direct-pay, cash-only, concierge, or membership-type models).
Many of these practitioners are trained in the systems-oriented Functional Medicine approach to restoring health, focusing on identifying root causes of dysfunction and giving nutritional and other lifestyle-related advice to the patients and clients they serve. Many are also relying on electronic communications to deliver e-health services to a larger client base.
In this context, what these practitioners can or can’t say or do, or what they may have to say or do, in order to practice lawfully can be mind boggling. What is allowed or mandated in providing diagnosis and nutritional-related health advice, therapies and/or treatment in terms of scope of license, standard of care, telehealth services, laboratory testing, sales of natural supplements, patient/client disclosures, Medicare regulations, HIPAA requirements, and appropriate advertising and business structure, are questions involving diverse legal issues, many of which are complex and not easily answered.
Plus, the answers to these difficult legal issues differ depending on the practitioner’s type of license/specialty and upon the law of the state in which the practice is located. Also, legal/regulatory controls are lagging far behind advances in medical science and healthcare technology. On many fronts, it’s “the legal wild west”.
In this context, there is growing outcry among integrative and alternative healthcare practitioners wanting to get beyond being unjustly targeted by state regulatory agencies, practicing in fear of being sanctioned or losing licensure. And, of course, they’re right. A balanced legal/regulatory environment and not one that strongly favors conventional biomedicine is needed, if we want to see truly personalized healthcare become the cornerstone of mainstream efforts to address the growing epidemic of chronic illness.
Many hundreds of practitioners nationwide are finding opportunity to offer their integrative functional healthcare services to clients legally and free from regulatory control by secular state governmental agencies by obtaining ecclesiastical licenses issued by the Pastoral Medical Association. The license authorizes the practice of Pastoral Science & Medicine, which embraces natural approaches to promoting and improving mental, physical, and spiritual health premised upon biblically-sound principles. However, PMA licensees must separate their pastoral practices completely from any state-licensed healthcare services, adhere strictly to PMA administrative policies and rules, and align their practices with the defined scope of the PMA license.
Our vision is that lawyers joining the Health Freedom Legal Services Network will be well-informed about the benefits of integrative functional healthcare and the legal/regulatory challenges practitioners face. Jointly, the Network lawyers will have the experience and expertise spanning all the primary substantive legal issues and attorney skill sets to effectively represent practitioners (individually and/or collectively) in regulatory and litigation matters; but also in addressing everyday law-related business formation and expansion needs, as well as assisting practitioners in forming strong state and local practitioner networking and lobbying groups.
Equally Important, beyond their collective legal capabilities; we envision a team whose members:
- Are deeply concerned about the epidemic of non-communicable chronic disease in America;
- Understand the threat the epidemic presents to the well-being of Americans and our country’s productivity and financial security;
- Recognize that clinical application of the Functional Medicine model and personalized approach for identifying and addressing the root cause of mental and physical dysfunction are the solution for both prevention and recovery from chronic illness; and
- Share the passion, motivation, and commitment NHF leaders and members have to prevail in our efforts to reverse and overcome the epidemic.
To support healthcare practitioners and facilitate their connection with the go-to legal team, we will establish an online portal to marshal legal resources, offer specific deliverables, profile team members and their individual expertise, and centralize communications among team members and with existing and prospective practitioner clients.
In addition, we are currently developing a list of Frequently Asked Law-Related Questions and Answers, which will raise practitioners’ awareness of important legal issues and alert them to matters and situations for which they should seek legal advice. As the Legal Services Network comes together, we will have strategic planning sessions with member attorneys to identify additional deliverables that can offer immediate benefit to integrative and alternative healthcare professionals nationwide.
We are also evaluating the idea of offering practitioners prepaid legal services at a reasonable cost – in essence, an insurance package providing guidelines and resources on “How to practice safely in every jurisdiction,” plus skilled legal representation when desired or needed to protect and advance their rights to practice.