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UT health insurer offering ’medicine man’ benefit

Salt Lake Tribune, September 21, 2011

Ask American Indian healer Steve Todachiny about the sweat lodge where once a week he helps his people shed their earthly cares, and he'll happily show you the darkened enclosure heated with stones from a nearby fire. The 51-year-old Navajo will tell you how the ribbons of four colors inside represent the four elements, four seasons and four generations of life. But if you want to know more, you'll have to experience the ceremony yourself. "These things aren't written," explains Todachiny. "It's what you grow up with." Hospitals and health care providers have, over the past two decades, awakened to the importance of culturally sensitive care. But culture is lived and breathed and can be hard to define or practice in the small confines of an exam room. So some providers, including an insurance company in Utah, are trying a new approach. Instead of bringing Todachiny — or his cultural knowledge — to patients, Molina Healthcare is sending patients to him. One of two insurers administering Utah's low-income Medicaid insurance program, Molina has added a Traditional Medicine Benefit to its list of billable healthcare services.