Sunday, February 17, 2008

Insurance Company Goes Too Far

Recently, a colleague sent me an article from the LA Times that I found worthy of passing on. It seems that California Blue Cross Blue Shield is trying to use doctors to obtain medical information about their policy holders from physicians. Apparently, the insurance company is trying to use the information that could be provided by physicians to cancel policies.

Blue Cross is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose "material medical history," including "pre-existing pregnancies." "Any condition not listed on the application that is discovered to be pre-existing should be reported to Blue Cross immediately," the letters say.

Fortunately, it seems that most of the physicians who have received this letter realize that this request violates doctor-patient confidentiality. The California Medical Association has sent a letter to Blue Cross condemning the letter.

Here is a link to the original article:,1,7750785.story

I think that this is an important issue that everyone with heath insurance needs to be aware of. If this is allowed to happen in one State, it is just a matter of time until such letters are circulated to physicians in Arizona. Confidentiality is essential part of the doctor-patient relationship, and it should never be allowed to be violated. If patients feel that they cannot trust their physicians due to fear of their doctor sharing information with insurance companies, who my use then use the info to drop coverage, then our health care system will be severely jeopardized.

At Naturopathic Family Care, your trust is of utmost importance, and you can rest assured that your medical information is safe and secure with us.

Jake Psenka, NMD

Friday, February 1, 2008

News about Pregnancy and Caffeine and Hot Flashes and Black Cohosh

Hello Everyone,

There were a number of interesting articles and health facts that crossed my desk this week. Instead of focusing on just one topic this week, I thought I would share two of the more interesting subjects.

I’m curious in what you, the readers of this blog, are interested in learning about. If you would like to share your opinions about the topics being covered, ask questions about the subjects, or suggest topics for the future, please do so. There is a link for comments at the bottom of each posting. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jake Psenka, ND

Caffeine and Pregnancy

This study looked at data collected from over 1000 pregnant women from 1996-1998. The researchers found that women who consumed the equivalent of two or more cups of regular coffee or five 12-ounce cans of caffeinated soda were twice as likely to miscarry as women who avoided caffeine. The researchers feel that caffeine's ill-effects may be due to the stress it places on the fetus' immature metabolism or because it may decrease blood flow to the placenta.

This finding is important because for a long while the effect of caffeine on pregnancy has been unclear. No conventional medical societies have put forth any strict opinions about the connection between the two. Now with the results of this study, those un-opinionated societies and, more importantly, the millions of women that they serve, will hear what naturopathically-treated women have been hearing for a long time. ANYTHING that acts as a stimulant should only be used in moderation by ANYONE. This advice is especially true for pregnant women or those who have chronic conditions.

The take home message is that if you are trying to get pregnant or are currently pregnant, make an effort to avoid caffeine. It's also important to take a high-quality pre-natal vitamin, as well as a DHA-enriched fish oil product.

Black Cohosh, Estrogen, and Cancer

The botanical medicine black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) was originally used by Native Americans, who used the herb to treat the symptoms of menopause. This herb, which is native to the midwestern US, is used by millions of menopausal and post-menopausal women for control of their symptoms. While scientists continue to argue about the effectiveness of the herb, many women are able to adequately control their symptoms. One of the most effective actions of black cohosh is it’s ability to control hot flashes. It is thought that the herb exerts this action by having some type of estrogenic activity.

Many women who are being treated for breast cancer often suffer from nearly unbearable hot flashes. Many traditional doctors have recommended that women with breast cancer and women who have been successfully treated for breast cancer in the past, should avoid using black cohosh. It was hypothesized that the estrogenic potential of the plant may produce a detrimental effect of women, especially those with estrogen-receptor positive disease.

A recent study investigated the molecular mode of action of black cohosh to discern if it truly acted via an estrogen-like manner. This study exposed human breast cancer cells to different types of black cohosh. The study found that black cohosh had no estrogenic effect and, in fact, the herb had significant anti-cancer activity. Black cohosh was shown to be both antiproliferative and proapoptotic (inducing cancer cell death). This study was published in BMC Pharmacology.

This is great news for women suffering from hot flashes, and especially for women with hot flashes from breast cancer therapy. It now appears that black cohosh can be recommended without having to worry about any potential cancer-promoting effects. If you’re interested about learning more about the benefits of black cohosh or other natural therapies, make sure to check out our calendar of events for upcoming free lectures at the clinic.

Also, I will be speaking at the February 12th meeting of the West Valley Breast Cancer Support Group. This group meets at the New Life Baptist Church at 8701 W. Encanto Blvd., Phoenix, Arizona. For more information about this group call 623-877-7773 and ask for JoeAnna.