A couple of days ago I was happily sweating in the sauna at my gym, when two men began a conversation about “Obamacare.” I felt like I had been sucked into the Fox News channel—or perhaps these gentlemen were fueled by the sauna’s hot air as they engaged in an increasingly heated conversation about the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which mandates health insurance for all eligible Americans.

What the debate came down to, as debates of this nature so often do, was whether or not tax dollars should be used to help fund public programs.

“You Democrats are all alike,” one of the men growled. “You want to take my money away and give it to people who can’t take care of themselves.”

When I heard this I felt shocked and saddened, because I value compassion and generosity. As a healthy person who has the opportunity to work, I am happy to have my tax dollars go toward supporting the health of less privileged folks. Taking care of others is, to me, the honorable thing to do.

But that’s just me. There are plenty of people who aren’t inclined to extend a helping hand—and that’s precisely why President Obama and his team felt we needed this legislation. (I know know my viewpoint won’t be popular with everyone, and I welcome comments and opinions in response to this post.)

What I am particularly interested in related to the ACA is the inclusion of a section on nondiscrimination: Section 2706 prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against health care providers—including those licensed as complementary health care providers—relative to their coverage and participation in health plans. That means when scheduling a medical appointment, a consumer can choose to see a licensed massage therapist, doctor of Chinese medicine, chiropractor or other complementary care provider, just as she would choose to see a podiatrist or general practitioner.

Just before beginning this blog post, I was  on the phone with  Alyssa Wostrel, executive director of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium, which is working to educate U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) regional directors on the nondiscrimination section in the ACA. Section 2706 stipulates the inclusion of licensed practitioners of complementary health care in insurance coverage.

Still, the ACA may not be implemented consistently from state to state.

Wostrel said Bastyr University is assisting the IHPC by researching which states have enforcement mechanisms in place and which do not—but that until the HHS issues guidance, or rules, on implementation, we can’t know how well section 2706 will be put in place.

The ACA website is due to go live in October, so there are just about six months until that guidance will, hopefully, be in place.

Whether you support the passage of “Obamacare” or not, if you are a licensed massage therapist you could see an increase in clients come January 2014.

Many massage professionals want nothing to do with insurance reimbursement; yet, the ACA means more people could have access to massage. Many questions remain unanswered—including whether certified and registered massage therapists will be covered, and whether or not coverage is automatic or if L.M.T.s need to sign up to participate. MASSAGE Magazine will continue to cover this topic as it moves forward.

In the meantime, a relaxing sauna is sounding good right about now … I just hope the Fox News guys hang out in the hot tub instead.

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