The Comeback Cure?

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

Drive just north of Washington, to the federal government’s health-care complex in Bethesda, Md., and you will see it. There amidst the agencies known collectively as the National Institutes of Health sits the headquarters of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Formerly known as the Office of Alternative Medicine, its purpose is to support research and training in alternative medicine, and to disseminate information on that field. The agency, created by legislative mandate in 1992, maintains a clearinghouse of information on everything from yoga, biofeedback and psychotherapy to naturopathy, homeopathy and acupuncture.

NCCAM’s mere existence is a testament to the growing American acceptance of the plethora of therapies included under the “alternative” umbrella. And Congress’ 1998 decision to elevate it from the status of “office” to “national center,” and to more than double its annual budget (from $20 million in fiscal 1998 to $50 million in fiscal 1999), demonstrates just how conventional alternative medicine has become.

A grassroots health movement
With last November’s publication of a special issue on the subject in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the premier magazine of the medical research industry, complementary and alternative medicine hit the mainstream full bore. The natural cures yesteryear are in vogue once again.

The cornerstone study of the JAMA issue, based on a telephone survey by researchers at Harvard University, concluded that Americans visited alternative doctors 629 million times in 1997 but primary physicians only 386 million times. It also estimated out-of-pocket expenses for alternative medicine at $27 billion, nearly on par with the $29 billion of non-insured expenses for traditional care.

The package on alternative medicine triggered cover stories in Time magazine and USA Today, and front-page coverage in The Washington Post, among other publications. But the JAMA study and the ensuing media coverage merely confirmed what the millions of converts already knew: Alternative treatments no longer are just an alternative; they are standard weapons in the never-ending war against poor health.


A Foretaste Of Census Fights To Come

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

Every decade, as the political calendar nears the “zero” year, a story unique to American democracy unfolds. While the enumeration experts at the Census Bureau finesse their head-counting formulas, the power brokers whose fortunes may be decided by the tally of “the people” wield their influence in an attempt to plot the most favorable boundaries for the nation’s 435 House seats.

The battlegrounds of census and congressional reapportionment are many — party vs. party, region vs. region, state vs. state, even friend vs. friend. And in the 1990s, the soldiers on both sides have waged war on a new front. They are fighting over the right to statistically adjust the 2000 census numbers.

The Supreme Court sought to mediate that dispute in January, but its ruling that an adjustment for purposes of congressional reapportionment would violate the constitutional mandate for an “actual enumeration” did not end the debate. The new conflict: whether to pay an extra $2 billion to $3 billion for two separate tallies — an enumeration to determine how to divide House seats among the states and an adjustment to be used in redrawing district lines and distributing federal funds.

The Clinton administration’s decision to continue its sampling quest renews yet again the endless cycle of census squabbling. It also proves that on this subject little has changed since 1792, when, five years into his presidency, George Washington issued his first veto — on a bill to a reapportion the House.

Numbering the people
Although only a minor concern when cast in the context of substantive debates about the framework of the legislative branch, the question of House apportionment nonetheless emerged at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The nation’s founders ultimately reached only three conclusions: