Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vermont Bill S.209 - Hinda Miller

Hinda Miller
Oral Testimony Before The
Vermont House Health Care Committee
Hearing On Bill S.209
April 11, 2012

The Senator’s testimony is recorded on a CD which can be purchased for $1 from the Legislative Council, tel. 802-828-2231. It is CD # 163, House Committee On Health Care, Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

Unfortunately, I was not able to arrive in time for the start of the hearing which began at 8:30 AM so that I didn’t hear the oral testimony presented by Senator Hinda Miller, one of the bill’s two sponsors, although when I listened to it on the CD, she said exactly what I had expected her to say. The points she made, the same as those that NDs and their advocates always make, were the ones that I had addressed in my written testimony,

Based on the things Miller has posted on the Internet and what the media has reported about her, Hinda sounds like a very interesting character and a very lucky woman. She has been called a myth by some in Burlington, Vermont having become a multi-millionaire at  the age of forty after developing the “jogbra” along with two other women, one of whom stopped speaking with her many years ago and is one of her many vocal critics today. 

Hinda was born into a Jewish family in 1950 in Montreal, Canada where her father was a businessman. Her grandparents were immigrants. She got degrees in fine art in NYC and came to Burlington in 1977 where she worked for as a costume designer for a theatrical production which is where and when she met Lisa Lindahl. As joggers Miller and Lindahl came up with the idea of a jogging bra which Polly Smith, also a costume designer, made the prototype for. Miller’s father lent her the money to start a business manufacturing the garment. The company was purchased by Playtex in 1990. Around 2001 Miller became a US citizen. She was elected to the Vermont Senate in 2002 then ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Burlington in 2006.

In addition to being a jogger, Hinda is a vegetarian and a yoga instructor. Her husband Joel is a psychologist and business consultant who owns many rental properties. 

Sources for the above.

In her testimony Senator Miller said that naturopaths deal with diet, nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, supplements and herbs as well as with the more “traditional allopathic” practices. 

She said that Bill S.209 was needed to clarify a bill passed in 2007 that recognized NDs as primary care physicians, “PCPs”. Bill S.209 wouldn’t expand their scope of practice but rather enable them to be included in the Blueprint For Health,, subsequent to their being scored by NCQA,, an agency chosen by the state to accredit health care practitioners. 

Miller noted that VT has a shortage of PCPs and that there are 40-50 NDs in the state but that many can’t take on new patients. (It is unclear to me why the senator doesn’t think they can take on new patients. I will try to contact her and ask her to explain and to comment here.) 

The reason that I fail to understand this is because Lorilee Schoenbeck, ND who gave oral testimony after Miller left said and passed out a handout stating that 95% of the NDs practicing as PCPs in Vermont are taking new patients. Many of those NDs have more than one office; some have offices in MA and NY, states that don’t license NDs, I know of one VT ND who gives nutrition advice in a natural products store, another who teaches and two who give telephone consultations. Many are presently advertising for patients and most claim to spend lots of time with them, usually at least half an hour for a repeat visit and longer for an initial visit.

That doesn’t sound to me as if VT NDs can’t take on new patients or as if Vermonters need more naturopaths. It sounds to me as if naturopaths need more Vermonters, more business, and that they are hoping that getting all the privileges MDs have will get them the customers they need to stay in business.

Hinda added that many people in Vermont want to use naturopathic care to enter the health care system but she didn’t present any evidence substantiating it. 

When one of the representatives asked Miller if the Senate committee that had first considered Bill S.209 had established criteria indicating that NDs should be included in the system as PCPs just as MDs and DOs were and that the other alt. med. professions that want the same privilege should be excluded, she said that they had but didn’t elaborate. 

The Senator added that Bill S.209 would give people choices but that the medical society opposed that because medical doctors feel that “their way is the only way”. She said that NDs like Lorilee Schoenbeck would explain that NDs have all the training that MDs have. Concluding with the assertion that there is always tension between “those of us who feel nutrition, diet and all those things can help us maintain our health and it is our responsibility to do that. We need help.” I assume that meant that people who feel like she does need help from NDs to keep them doing the things they believe keep them well. 

She finished with, “We are very happy about surgery and drugs,” meaning, I assume, that she and her ND buddies approve of MDs offering those treatments, the latest mantra to come from the lips of alt medders. Not long ago they ranted about the injuries and deaths MDs caused with such therapies. Perhaps, like me, you remember their repeated shouts about MDs burning, slashing and poisoning cancer patients. As a person who they burned and slashed in 1984 when I had breast cancer, I was and still am damn glad that they did that to me and doubt I’d be alive today if they hadn’t. 

I have frequently shouted back at alt med practitioners who used those scare tactics to try to convince vulnerable sick people that medical treatment backed by solid evidence was evil and lethal and that their alternatives were safe and effective in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. I guess one of the reasons they are toning it down now is because there are so many people like me who have been successfully treated by the “burn/slash/poison” crowd who realize how wrong alts are when they accuse those who practice evidence-based medicine of all kinds of brutality. I bet their marketing professionals have told them, “Ya gotta stop saying that stuff even though you believe it. Other people don’t. It makes you look bad. It is bad for business. Turns customers away. We’ve entered the next phase. Integrated is the new word. Remember that! Integrated medicine, Complementary. Not Alternative anymore. Ya got it?”


I don’t know Senator Hinda Miller. My impressions of her come from what she said and what I’ve read about her. Based on that, I conclude that like many affluent, wealthy, articulate Westerners well educated in the arts she truly believes in alternative medicine. 

According to one reporter,, Miller said that she was the kind of person “who runs off a cliff head-first”. Her former business partner, Lisa Lindahl, who hadn’t spoken to her in 15 years, agreed saying that she, Lindahl, would say, 'Well, OK, if we jump off that cliff, where are we going to land and what is it likely going to cost us?” "Hinda's management style was to get it done, cross it off her list and deal with the consequences later."

Like most visionaries, it sounds as if Hinda follows her hunches and moves swiftly without investigating first, without thinking before she leaps. The difference is that in the fields were so many of these people have recently succeeded so well through trial and error, following hunches works because the results become apparent quickly and are easily observable by the naked eye. For the tenacious and lucky who have been in the right place at the right time, found the partners and investors they needed when they needed them, the material rewards were huge. The only risks posed by failure in their chosen endeavors, by following the wrong hunches, were bruised egos and financial losses. But that is not true in medicine where mistakes and bad bets kill and debilitate human beings. 

Steve Jobs was probably the greatest and most successful visionary of our times. Like Miller he believed in the value of nutrition. His wife even started a nutrition company. He also believed in alt. med. and only abandoned it when it became woefully apparent that it was not saving his life. 
Whether or not his delay in seeking evidence-based medical treatment for his cancer resulted in his premature death is something that may never be known unless perhaps the medical doctors who treated him in the end are someday given permission to speak out and to publish his medical records.

I think Jobs’s case illustrates how the skills that bring huge success in one area can bring disaster in another. It shows why it is so important to know the skills and liabilities we bring to different tasks, to know our strengths and weaknesses and to know our limits.

Playing with your own life is your right, but you have no right to play with the lives of others which is exactly what people like Miller and her colleagues in the legislature do when they pass laws that put an unreasonable risk on the lives and health of others by granting privileges to practitioners who don’t deserve.

Miller claimed that unless NDs are given all the same privileges that MDs have that people would not have access to their services. Does she really think that Vermonters don’t already have access to NDs as well as to nutritionists, coaches, herbalists, supplement salesmen, all kinds of exercise instructors including yoga teachers even though none of them has MD privileges now or is licensed as a PCP? Does she think that all of those professions should be licensed as PCPs and given prescription privileges? Or does she think that the only alts who deserve MD privileges and PCP status are her ND buddies? 

While I’m not the least surprised that an artist would believe that NDs have the same education as MDs do, I am amazed that so many other legislators would take the NDs' word for it without verifying it independently. I’m surprised they’d jump off the cliff with Hinda.

I respect Miller for what seems to me to be her sincerity, and I respect her right to her beliefs about health care, but I don’t think that beliefs should set government policies in this day and age. I think that Hinda is acting on hunches, not facts, hunches about people having far more personal control over their health and longevity than the objective evidence suggests. I think Miller’s head is buried deep in the sand and that she is refusing to even consider the fact that the treatments NDs routinely offer could harm or kill her rather than help her. Here are my reasons in case you’ve missed them. 

I wonder whether or not the House Health Care Committee members share Miller’s  beliefs. All but Porier and Till voted in favor of Bill S.209. Morissey was absent. Did they vote in favor because they are true believers like Miller apparently is or did they do it for political reasons? 

Hinda Miller, Vermont, Bill S.209, House Health Care Committee, Vermont House of Representatives, naturopaths, NDs, dangerous medicine


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