- - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In the Old West, pitchmen took their show on the road to sell tonics and ointments from the back of wagons. Their elixirs could cure all ailments, make the old young again and revive flagging spirits. Indeed, the tonics did make buyers feel refreshed and restored, since they were mostly alcohol. Such sideshows are a thing of the past, but miracle cures live on, and they’re getting government recognition.

States have licensed colon cleansing, chiropractic correction of subluxations (the dubious notion that displaced vertebrae cause organ diseases), moxibustion (burning a flower over or on a pressure point), reiki (passing energy from one person to another), acupuncture, naturopathy and various homeopathic remedies. Yesteryear’s carnival barker can now be an officially licensed health care professional.

The practitioners of today’s miracle cures are often chosen to create the boards and commissions to write up regulations for themselves. They determine how their licenses are handed out and address public complaints about services.

Eighteen states allow naturopaths to legally diagnose and treat patients, and four state legislatures — in Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland and Utah — voted this year to give naturopaths more rights as legitimate medical providers. Naturopathy relies on “vital energy” to cure patients and recommends remedies such as magnets, ear candles and salt lamps.

Unfortunately, naturopaths’ reliance on holistic medicine and rejection of many legitimate medical practices leads parents who abide by naturopathy to reject vaccinating children, which puts everyone at risk.

Minnesota lawmakers voted to expand the scope of practice for chiropractors to include acupuncture. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals can now decide whether acupuncture and Oriental medicine should be formally regulated and licensed.

When governments recognize practitioners of questionable science as legitimate health care professionals, it can cost lives when patients do not get proper medical treatment.

Scientific studies prove such remedies lack medical benefits, and if holistic, Eastern or homeopathic remedies worked, they wouldn’t be holistic, Eastern or homeopathic remedies. They would simply be “medicine.”

There’s also a price tag attached to a blessing from the state. Tax revenues are used to pay for student loans and research grants to schools that teach health care practices licensed by states — even the bogus ones.

Once sanctioned by a government, acupuncturists, naturopaths, colon hydrotherapists and other such medical professionals lobby for mandatory public and private insurance coverage. Private insurers and public providers, such as Medicaid, have to cover bogus medicine, which drives up the cost of insurance premiums and state budgets.

Obamacare will exacerbate this. The program mandates that any health service offered by a licensed health care provider acting within the scope of his license be covered by Obamacare insurance plans. Since many Obamacare plans are heavily taxpayer-subsidized, all Americans will soon be paying for bunkum such as reiki and hokum such as craniosacral therapy. According to the medical doctors who run the Science-Based Medicine website, California now includes acupuncture as an essential health benefit under its Obamacare provisions. The Old West pitchmen were phonies, but they usually put on a good show.