GHC complementary medicine ending in December | News

GHC complementary medicine ending in December | News

When Tracy Van Epps learned she had terminal anaplastic thyroid cancer in August 2022, she knew chemotherapy wasn’t a good fit for her.

Her prognosis was just a few months and doctors anticipated she’d have to go through chemo treatments until her body couldn’t take it anymore. 

“That wasn’t the way I wanted to live my remaining days,” Van Epps said. 

Along with surgery and radiation, Van Epps has been using complementary medicine to treat her illness. Also known as integrative health, complementary medicine aims to work with both the mind and body to address medical issues using acupuncture, massage, reiki, craniosacral therapy and other alternative remedies meant to stimulate the body’s energies.

Van Epps gets her health care and health insurance from the Madison-based HMO Group Health Cooperative. She was one of the thousands of patients who received notice earlier this month that GHC would stop offering complementary medicine “by the end of 2023.” Earlier this year, GHC also moved away from insuring these types of treatments. 

The move is a change of tune for GHC. The company championed complementary medicine when much of the industry didn’t consider it legitimate science. Many patients who depend on complementary medicine have complex and chronic conditions. They’re now left with a few months to find alternatives. 

In a letter explaining the change, GHC said it plans to direct more resources to mental health care.

“The retirement of this service is a part of our broader strategy to better address emerging critical health care needs in our community. For example, over the past three years especially, the need for behavioral health has outpaced our capacity to provide services,” the letter said. 

In a few months, Van Epps will no longer be able to work with the GHC naturopath — a doctor who uses natural remedies instead of pharmaceuticals —  who helped her manage her illness with supplements, nutrition and by addressing anxiety. 

Van Epps said it’s a shame the company is turning away from complementary health and the type of treatment that’s helped her outlive her cancer prognosis. 

“I’m still here fighting it holistically, and now I’m going to lose that.”

Tracy Van Epps 092623 02-09262023164616

Tracy Van Epps, right, is pictured at Viva Infusions in Mount Horeb on Tuesday, Sep. 26, 2023. Van Epps receives high-dose vitamin C infusions at the Viva clinic for anaplastic thyroid cancer and has outlived her prognosis by several months.

GHC was longtime leader in holistic health

Complementary medicine uses mostly non-Western methods of treating illness. It goes by many names — including holistic, integrative and alternative — and aims to heal the body in natural ways without drugs or invasive medical procedures. It can include everything from chiropractic care to diet changes to more spiritual methods like the use of essential oils and meditation. 

Holistic approaches to treating illness have been around for centuries, but public interest in complementary medicine rose rapidly in the 1990s, said David Rakel, founder of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Integrative Health Program

Read More... Read More