The Last Acupuncture Observer Post?

The planet is burning, the country is splitting apart.

I can imagine the despair of the climate scientists. They sounded the alarm when there was time to change course. But those in power prioritized their own short term interests. The rest of us were powerless to make the big changes. And we remain mostly unwilling to suffer the discomfort that smaller (though still helpful) changes require. We take long hot showers, drive big cars, take cruises, crank the air-conditioning on hot days, and lament the loss of the natural world we know. Being really good at recycling isn’t enough.

In the grand scheme of things, the loss of a Profession isn’t as serious as the loss of cool summer evenings and Orangutans and New Orleans. The knowledge and wisdom of this medicine preceded Licensed Acupuncturists and will live on without us.

I’m no Greta Thunberg. But I will sound the alarm again, and hope that the Profession I love will change course before it’s too late.

  • We have created a growing demand for acupuncture. Patients want it, insurance companies want to include it in their offerings, governments – federal 1,state and local, want to provide it to their citizens. There are lots of jobs, and lots of practices available.
  • There are many Acupuncturists who are leaving the field.
  • There are many areas with no Acupuncturists at all.
  • Enrollment in entry-level Acupuncture programs is down more than 20% in the last five years.

It’s an odd combination. High demand, unfilled jobs, LAcs leaving the profession, and fewer people entering the profession.

Representatives from ACAOM and the NCCAOM, asked about the drop in school enrollment at the ASA conference2, chalked it up to “the economy” and the “overall drop in people attending graduate school” and the change in “employment goals” for “the current generation.” And, “as we have more jobs more people will see it as a viable profession.” In short, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

They aren’t being honest – maybe not with themselves, certainly not with us.

It’s simple. The investment required to become an LAc, and the education and training students receive, is disconnected from the job skills, jobs, and compensation available to most acupuncture school graduates.

People are spending four plus years in school, graduating with significant student debt, offered jobs that don’t match that investment, and without resources to start or purchase a practice. In some states even four years of education isn’t enough. Florida just added a requirement for training in injection therapy for licensure.

Meanwhile, most entry-level acupuncture jobs don’t require injection therapy or herbal skills. (Not necessary for Modern Acupuncture or most Community Acupuncture jobs, for example).

In order to pass Board exams, extensive study of TCM is needed, even though that system is not required to practice safely and competently, which is what licensing exams are supposed to test.3 The NCCAOM acknowledges the problem, but hasn’t offered a solution.

Existing LAcs spend a lot of time bitter that things aren’t better. Many believe that if only “the profession” fought harder they’d get the higher pay and monopoly on techniques they believe they deserve.

Now is the time to speak clearly.

  • The vast majority of LAcs will never be paid physician level salaries. We can spend more time in school, we can get more titles, we can all refuse to work for reimbursements we consider insufficient, and, still, average net incomes of even 80K are a long way off.
  • We cannot, in general, prevent others from using techniques we consider to be “ours.” 4
  • The higher the demand for acupuncture and the higher our expectations for compensation, the more quickly the system will shift to having non-LAcs provide acupuncture.
  • There is a bipartisan consensus that restrictive Occupational Licensing harms the economy.
  • We are vastly outnumbered by most of the professions we view as competition.
  • If you think that we haven’t been able to “protect the profession” because we haven’t fought hard enough you have not been involved and have no grounds on which to judge.

There are things we can do, powerful things within our control, that could help us survive. We must –

  • Streamline our schooling. The focus must be on competencies, not hours. Safe and competent practitioners can be trained in far less than 2000 hours. We know, because we used to do it all of the time.5
  • Minimize the expense of the necessary training. Much could be accomplished through distance education. Bring back apprenticeships which served us well for many generations (we can call them clinical internships, if we’re afraid of what the mainstream will think). Employers can provide additional post-graduate training in specific techniques and modalities.
  • Demand that the NCCAOM develop licensure exams that test minimal standards for safe and competent practice, not specific knowledge irrelevant to practice.6 The NCCAOM bears the responsibility of designing a JTA that supports the development of an appropriate exam. Particular settings or styles that want to do additional testing can chose to do so. Schools bear responsibility for assessing  knowledge of their particular traditions/lineages.
  • Protect licensure for everyone who has sufficient training in acupuncture, which includes teaching that all health providers have a duty to limit their practice to their own training and experience. Requiring all Acupuncturists to have additional training in herbs, or any other specific, optional, modality shall not be a requirement for licensure.
  • Understand that our success as a profession depends upon our having sufficient LAcs to provide treatment in a timely and affordable fashion in most communities in the US, not on whether the Cleveland Clinic has a few OMD’s on staff. We must provide resources to help and support those willing to practice in underserved areas.7
  • Drop the expectation that “the system” will pay us what we think we deserve. Everyone wants to pay less for health care – people, insurance companies, governments.

We must reclaim Acupuncture as a simple, straightforward interaction between a practitioner and a patient, and recreate the accessible path to licensure we once had. Otherwise, we are creating a future with fewer Acupuncturists, who may manage to pay for their extensive education and keep up with demand only by handing off patient care to minimally-trained assistants working for low wages.

Individual acupuncturists and our professional organizations must acknowledge that we have a problem. It may be a little uncomfortable, but we have the power to make changes that will, at least, delay the day when an Acupuncturist in the US is as rare as the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan.8 It’s not too late.

 

Notes:

1) Please read this, and comment, on the CMS proposal! Deadline August 15!

2) The ASA did a great job with their first conference. Excellent speakers, well-organized, great facility. Very impressive right out of the starting gate.

3) “The sole purpose of a licensing examination is to identify persons who possess the minimum knowledge and experience necessary to perform tasks on the job safely and competently–not to select the “top” candidates or ensure the success of licensed persons. Therefore, licensing examinations are very different from academic or employment examinations. Academic examinations assess how well a person can define and comprehend terms and concepts. Employment examinations can rank order candidates who possess the qualifications for the job.” (from https://www.clearhq.org/resources/Licensure_examinations.htm)

4) Vermont recently deregulated auriculotherapy. Here’s an opinion from Washington state regarding Nurses and Acupuncture.

5) Other Professions have altered training and education in order to address worker shortages and minimize debt (which also encourages increased diversity). Acupuncturists in Nevada were finally able to bring their licensing requirements closer to what we find in other states.

6) My individual conversations with NCCAOM reps at the ASA conference didn’t move beyond quick chats in passing. I’ve got some hope that they’ll work to improve the recertification process. I’m less hopeful that there will be progress in the other areas in which I’ve expressed concerns. Meanwhile, a big congratulations to Mina Larson on her appointment as the next NCCAOM CEO. I know that she understands the challenges facing the profession.

7) Dealing with the shortage of rural providers.

8) Current population of the Sumatran Orangutan estimated at 14,613.

 

 

Accomplishments of the Acupuncture Profession

We know acupuncture can treat pain and chronic illness, assist with recovery from addiction, increase fertility, and help people manage stress (just to start). Acupuncturists know it would be good if more people could get more acupuncture.

Many dedicated individuals have devoted significant qi to increase insurance coverage, to add acupuncture to Medicare covered services, and to bring acupuncture to hospitals and clinics. All with the hope of increasing access.

Other practitioners are committed to gaining mainstream respect and acceptance to further the goal of greater access. They’ve published research, increased training and credentialing requirements, and fought to keep others from using acupuncture techniques without that training and credentialing.

Our “return on investment” has not been great.

We’re still a lot of money and many years away from Medicare inclusion. How much time and energy gets taken from clients to deal with insurance? How many potential patients have meaningful coverage, and how long will that last? Increased training and credentialing and variations in requirements from state to state slows entry into the field and increases expenses, further diminishing our political strength. In areas with few LAcs, efforts to block other professionals from utilizing pain-relieving acupuncture techniques leaves the public with no access at all.

We’re not using our qi efficiently. Our efforts haven’t done much to shorten the path between most practitioners who want to treat, and most people who want treatment.

It’s motivating, helpful, and informative to read a book illustrating the power of a direct path between practitioner and patient. Acupuncture Points are Holes, is a great read.

It’s several books in one: a captivating personal story, an exploration of the process of establishing an acupuncture practice, and an analysis of some common limitations in acupuncture training. It examines the focus required to keep the path between practitioner and patient clear. The book and appendices contain lots of direct, straightforward, easy-to-read help for you and your business, whether it’s a POCA clinic or not.

The author’s decision to directly address the impediments that keep people in need from accessing acupuncture led to: adoption of a practice model which was then shared with others, establishment of a Co-op to support the system and interested practitioners, and, as of 2014 , an affordable acupuncture school to train future POCA practitioners. The 158 POCA clinics that answered a 2016 survey provided 880,596 treatments. One three-location group sees over 8000 unique patients each year. So far, POCA Tech students have a 100% pass rate on NCCAOM Exam Modules.

All this in less than twenty years.That’s a lot of accomplishments.

Getting the book will be an excellent return on investment. Get the e-book here, the paperback here or here. All proceeds go to POCA Tech.

 

Success is Accessible!

When choosing or upgrading your office there is one consideration that will have a profound impact. Prioritizing it will help you —

  • retain clients for decades
  • appeal to clients who need your services regularly
  • decrease the need to make house calls
  • contract with insurance companies
  • participate in federal programs (such as Veterans Choice and ACA plans)
  • gain respect and referrals from other health care providers
  • keep your office in one location for the duration of your career
  • reduce legal threats
  • minimize workplace injuries to you and your staff
  • comply with civil rights law.

It’s a win, win, win, win, win, win, win,win, win, win.

That consideration is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in every day activities, including medical services. Any private entity that owns, leases or leases to, or operates a place of public accommodation (that includes your office) is responsible for complying with Title III of the ADA. (Source – DOJ/HHS Publication)

19% of the US population reported having a disability in the 2010 census.

If you are blessed with good client retention and a lengthy career your patient population is likely to increasingly include those with disabilities. You might develop your own temporary, or permanent, mobility issues.

Acupuncture schools need to teach students about our responsibilities under the ADA. Ethics classes should address the de facto discrimination that occurs when we choose inaccessible work spaces. And, when practitioners seek advice from peers about potential office arrangements, renovations, or accommodations (such as interpreters) emphasis should be on the legal, ethical, and practical benefits of compliance. Preemptive absolution is offered too often, especially by those who don’t understand the law.

The ADA does include exemptions to protect small businesses from accommodations that would be an “undue burden.” Is a $2,000 lift table an undue burden? How much have you spent on Biomats, lasers, tuning forks, and travel to conferences? Rent for a first floor office might be more, but house calls also affect your bottom line. (If you rely on house calls to comply with the ADA requirements for accessibility, remember: you can’t charge more, you must offer the same level of service, you have to offer flexible scheduling as you would to your in-office clients, and, if you are accepting new clients it is discrimination not to accept those whose disability would make your office inaccessible.)

It’s true, individual practitioners who don’t comply are unlikely to suffer legal consequences and many Practices flourish despite a lack of accessibility.

“Getting away” with not complying is no way to run a business or a health care profession. Doing all we can to meet the needs of those with disabilities is good business, good for the profession, and good for the public. It should be a top priority.

Here are some resources to help you understand the ADA and our responsibilities —

Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Mobility Disabilities

Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations

Title III Highlights

ADA Q & A for Health Care Providers

ADA Checklist for Existing Facilities

ADA and Small Businesses

NPR Story about Accessing Care for People with Disabilities

Post on California Law impacting Lease negotiations

ADA Enforcement Activities

ADA in a Health Care Context

ADA for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Insurance and Acupuncture 2015- The State of the Profession

Many Acupuncturists hold that increasing insurance coverage is necessary for our professional future. It’s a main goal of the NGAOM. HR 3849 is the same legislation the AAAOM has lobbied for in the past. The Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Society of Massachusetts is working on legislation mandating insurance coverage, and a similar bill has been introduced in Vermont. A handful of states include acupuncture in their ACA plans.

I don’t believe Acupuncturists have to sell their soul to participate with insurance, and I don’t believe insurance companies are evil.

I do believe many practitioners haven’t considered the overall impact of insurance coverage on their business, the profession, and the medicine.

Participating with insurance invites a third-party into the treatment room. The Acupuncturist (or any Care Provider), the Patient, and the Payer share one goal – that the Patient feel better as quickly as possible. Beyond that, there’s plenty they don’t share, including – how to define treatment success and fair compensation. How many and what type of treatments are necessary. What provider types to reimburse. How best to control health care spending. How to provide care for those with expensive medical conditions. How to assess quality care.

Patients and providers often see the payer (a faceless bureaucracy that isn’t in the treatment room) as the bad guy. But the payer’s business depends upon watching every penny, and always trying to get more for less. Payers often say no (or that’s too much) to patients and providers.

In the past year, conversations about insurance coverage have included:

  • Practitioners about to open their first practice with no idea where to begin.
  • Copies of statements from an Acupuncturist who bills insurance $2,000 per treatment.
  • A practitioner insisting that billing a Manual Therapy code for point location is legit.
  • Many responses of “everyone has pain somewhere, so bill for that” to questions about codes for a specific condition.
  • Discussions of how to use CPT codes so that reimbursement amount equals desired amount.
  • Concerns about audits.
  • Concern regarding reductions in reimbursement rates.
  • Complaints that panels are closed (the insurance company won’t accept additional practitioners in-network).
  • Reports that companies are requiring current NCCAOM credentials for participating providers, even when not required for state licensure.
  • Anger when offers of expedited payments for reduced amounts are offered.
  • Complaints about time spent resolving billing or reimbursement errors.
  • Questions about proper policies around co-payments and co-insurance.
  • Discussions of how to serve the patient who has not yet met their deductible.
  • Concerns about retaining patients who have reached their treatment limit.
  • Stated goals of treating patients with limited resources, without recognition that those patients often have limited coverage.

We’re inviting a powerful bureaucracy into our practices, one with the power to define our medicine in the eyes of the public. Other professions have strong and responsive support systems to balance the power of that bureaucracy. We don’t. Are we prepared for the continuing effort that will be necessary to protect our interests? We play this game at our peril.

 

 

9 Reasons why Acupuncture Regulations There Matter Here!

Changes in acupuncture regulation in any state matter to each of us individually, and to the profession as a whole.

Here are 9 reasons why —

  • We don’t know what the future holds. Unexpected moves happen.
  • You may need to hire practitioners or sell your practice. Can interested parties easily move to your state?
  • Your patients might move and want a practitioner just like you. Will one be available?
  • Growth in the profession is not keeping up with demand. Regulatory uncertainty diminishes the appeal of the profession.
  • High educational and credentialing costs interfere with business growth. If the requirements vary from state to state, the impact is multiplied. (See this report on Occupational Licensing.)
  • Regulatory differences lead to divisions within the profession. With fewer than 25k acupuncturists in the US unity is critical.
  • What happens in one state impacts every state. States look at what has happened elsewhere when considering regulatory changes.
  • Changes in one state can lead to changes for everyone. When CA increased required educational hours every school and ACAOM soon changed as well.
  • Different regulations, training requirements, and titles make it difficult to educate the public about our qualifications, draw contrasts with other professionals, or advocate for our profession as a whole.

Staying informed is not easy. Neither is getting involved. We are all busy, we don’t always know how to assess the pros and cons of a possible change, and things can get heated and unpleasant when there are differences of opinion.

And, the future of our profession and our businesses is greatly impacted by regulatory changes – even those happening across the country.

Please, stay involved.

Forgive two posts in quick succession, but regulatory changes are on the way. You’ll hear from me again soon.

(Note — I advocate for standardizing and simplifying the regulatory process for acupuncture licensure. I am not advocating for standardizing the medicine itself. Our diversity is powerful indeed.)

How we Grow – The Acupuncture Profession in 2015

One Physician per 371 non-institutionalized civilians was the US average in 2012.

One Acupuncturist per 20,000 non-institutionalized civilians was the US average in 2014.

NCCAOM’s 2014 Annual Report is an important read for anyone who cares about Acupuncture in the US. From it we learn:

  • Applications for certifications dropped from 1744 in 2013 to 1494 in 2014.
  • The number of new certifications dropped from 1144 in 2013 to 972 in 2014.
  • 532 of those new certifications were in Oriental Medicine. Another 16 were for Chinese Herbology (likely existing LAcs choosing or being required to add the Herb certification).

I don’t know how many practitioners are leaving the profession, but many of my peers who were licensed 20+ years ago are stepping back from active practice.

Several current initiatives, including HR 3849 and state-level efforts to mandate insurance coverage of acupuncture would increase demand for acupuncture. (There are 49,435,610 Medicare beneficiaries in the US and 5.5 million Gulf War Vets.) If fully trained Acupuncturists aren’t able to meet the demand, who will provide those services?

At this rate, how long will it take to grow the profession to even one Acupuncturist per 2000 people?

Shouldn’t we focus on that?

I’m baffled. We’ve sued, signed petitions, and marched in the street, all to try to stop the “greatest threat to our profession” – other professions wanting to use the acupuncture needle.

But there’s been silence, or even approval, when Florida (with one DOM for every 17,760 people) changed their regulations in 2014 to require all 4 NCCAOM exams for licensure. Ditto in NJ where new practitioners will need the NCCAOM herb exam to use herbs in their practice. (How many citizens had been harmed by use of herbs by practitioners without the herbal credential? Was regulation needed?) In Nevada (approximately 1 Acupuncturist for every 47,000 citizens) the Board of Oriental Medicine is moving to require a DAOM of all licensees. Meanwhile, many insurance plans are limiting their provider pool to those with active NCCAOM certification, even in states that don’t require that credential. (After all, the vision of the NCCAOM is that “Acupuncture and Oriental medicine provided by NCCAOM credentialed practitioners [emphasis mine] will be integral to healthcare….”)

If we want the public to obtain services from well-trained Acupuncturists we need to make sure providers are available. One thousand new practitioners a year and growing self-inflicted restrictions on where and how we can practice aren’t going to do it.

The greatest threat to our future is an Acupuncture workforce insufficient to meet demand or effectively advocate for ourselves. Allowing or supporting credential creep, educational bloat, and practice restrictions are sowing the seeds of our demise.

Can we please focus on growing our profession?

 

Demographic Information From:

Acupuncture Today Density Map

Physician Data

Population Data

Medicare Data

Veteran Data

November ’15 Acupuncture News Update, Chapter 1

It isn’t easy keeping up with Acupuncture News. Now and then a “clear the decks” post (or two, or three) is needed. Here goes:

HR 3849: Representative Judy Chu (CA) introduced “The Heroes and Seniors Act ” which would add acupuncturist services to Medicare and would increase the availability of acupuncture to members of the military and Veterans. The bill has a long list of endorsing organizations. Supporters should share their analysis of what would happen in the twenty states with fewer than 100 LAcs*. In a business with competitors, creating demand for a service without the ability to provide it is a bad move.  I’d be more worried if I didn’t agree with govtrack.us – there is a 0% chance of the bill being enacted.

Dry Needling: In late September the North Carolina Acupuncture Licensing Board filed a complaint in the General Court of Justice against the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, asking the court, among other things, to declare dry needling the unlawful practice of acupuncture. In early October the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy filed their counter suit in US District Court seeking triple damages for the NCALB’s illegal and anticompetitive acts. Not surprisingly the same LAcs who cheered on the NCALB suit were outraged that the NCPTE would return fire. Given the SCOTUS ruling from this past year I believe the acupuncture community is in a risky place. If the PT’s prevail it will be a game changer nationwide. Did the AG’s office (which had previously ruled that Dry Needling could be within PT scope) advise the NCALB on their complaint? Are all North Carolina Licensees picking up the legal tab for what looks like outside counsel?

In other news the acupuncture community has been touting the revised AAMA Policy on Dry Needling. The Middle Eastern saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes to mind. It’s a strategy that can win battles, and can create more of them. I don’t think of Medical Acupuncturists or PT’s as enemies. I do remember our insistence that the 200 (or 300?) hour training of the MD Acupuncturists is insufficient. And I wonder whether the PT’s could increase their training to 200 (or 300?) hours and then argue that all of acupuncture is open to them.

Nevada: The minutes of the November 5th Nevada Board of Oriental Medicine haven’t yet been posted, but I understand from attendees that the Board is planning to hire legal counsel, the cost of which will fall on existing licensees. Why does the Board need to hire legal counsel? Because they continue to pursue actions that go against existing code and legislation, rejecting the counsel of the Attorney General’s office. The news from Nevada is a reminder that having an independent acupuncture board isn’t necessarily great for the public or the profession.

Looks like there will be at least one more “Clear the Decks” post. Coming soon  – news about: acupuncture and insurance, NCCAOM’s annual report and more, ACAOM’s hot news, regulation in the District of Columbia, Lamar Odom and the future of herbal regulation, and what’s happening in the AAAOM.

 

* I use LAc to refer to all professionals holding the proper government license to provide primarily acupuncture and TCM services. Having no clear way to refer to, define, or describe this group of individuals is representative of our challenges!

It’s Like Herding Cats

It’s a common refrain about reaching consensus in the acupuncture profession. But why try to herd cats? I learned a long time ago that opening a can of tuna would bring kitty running.

If there were an attainable action that would:

  • Increase patient access to Licensed Acupuncturists,
  • Assist in national marketing for the profession,
  • Decrease educational costs and student debt,
  • Decrease licensing expenses,
  • Increase political power,
  • Expand professional opportunities, flexibility, and mobility, and,
  • Increase the value of your practice,

Would that be like tuna to a kitty?

(Whirrr of can opener)

Tuna for me = Identifying the least restrictive licensure requirements necessary to protect the public and create successful practitioners and working to establish that as a standard in all states.

Before panic ensues, consider some of the situations I’ve heard about in the past few years:

  • Highly experienced and qualified LAcs unable to obtain licensure, even in states where there are so few LAcs that the public has little choice but to get their acupuncture treatment from Chiropractors.
  • Practitioners who want to sell their practices but have a limited pool of buyers because of the unique licensure requirements in their state.
  • Practitioners travelling many, many hours in order to practice, or leaving the profession, because life has taken them to a state in which they can’t obtain a license.
  • Practitioners and students who have no interest in using herbs being required to spend tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours learning herbal medicine in order to obtain an acupuncture license.
  • Acupuncturists supporting discriminatory laws or regulations such that the only group of people in a state who can not practice herbal medicine are other Acupuncturists.
  • Practitioners having to maintain licenses in multiple states because changing regulations mean that if they give up a license they will be unable to obtain it in that state again.
  • Acupuncturists being unable to advance reasonable state or national legislation because restrictive practices keep practitioner numbers so low that political support is unavailable.
  • The profession being unable to effectively educate the public about their excellent education and credentials because those credentials vary so much from state to state.
  • Acupuncturists struggling to build a practice in overserved areas, but unable to obtain licensure in nearby underserved areas.
  • Acupuncture organizations fighting for inclusion in managed care and federal health programs, even though many states have too few LAcs to serve the population. (Demographic data can be found at these links: Acupuncture Today LAc Map, US Population, Physicians per State.)

The current system in which some states require graduation from particular schools, others have their own exams, and others have their own educational requirements does not serve us as a profession. The situation is getting worse, not better, as states like Florida increase their requirements. Yes, states have differing scopes. (Those who advocate for scope changes should be required to consider and advertise the impact the changes will have on licensure requirements.) Yes, it is in the interest of the public and the profession to insist that practitioners limit their practice to the tools and skills in which they have been trained. Additional, optional, training can always be required for those who wish to practice more advanced techniques or modalities. The least restrictive licensure requirements have shown themselves to be sufficient for safe practice.

Limited, standardized, licensure requirements would lower practitioner expenses, promote mobility, ease national marketing, and help the profession grow. It sounds great — as good as tuna smells to a cat. Does it make you make you want to come running? Many changes in licensure requirements could be made at the regulatory level and are within our reach. It does not depend on establishing reciprocity. One problem — the LAcs within a state have the power to make or block change, and, especially in restrictive states, the small group that set up the rules is often in power. Another problem — many LAcs don’t care about this until they are directly impacted.

This is a place where national coordination is needed. I hope the CSA sees that this is a place where they could make a positive difference. Let your state association know if you support a more standardized and simpler licensure environment. It should not require any herding.

Cat Food

Cat Food

 

 

Assistance for the Working Acupuncturist

I went down the Facebook rabbit-hole, and while I was there I learned a few things.

For instance, “just a quick look” and “I’ll just scan my notifications” can quickly lead to a month without a blog post. I will not let that happen again.

Also, based on posts about HIPAA, insurance billing, choosing office space, maintaining records, etc., we have  a lot of questions and we are looking for answers. It’s great that we’ve got communities of colleagues to ask. It is also inefficient, and sometimes downright dangerous that our colleagues are often the only source of answers.

Looking at HIPAA and ADA for example, we see that some professions (but not acupuncturists) have access to lots of resources from their national associations.

  • a search of the AAAOM site gets one, not very useful hit, regarding HIPAA-related responsibilities.
  • Here’s information from the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) site on HIPAA.
  • Here are the search results for HIPAA over at the American Chiropractic Association.
  • I can find no information on the AAAOM site about acupuncture offices and ADA compliance.
  • APTA provides these useful links about ADA compliance.
  • The American Psychological Association has great information about ADA compliance.

While acupuncture organizations are working on national legislation, increasing insurance coverage for acupuncture, adding an entry level degree, and fighting with other professions to limit the use of the acupuncture needle, we search for authoritative assistance on current practice issues in vain. (Luckily, the links above are pertinent to our practices.)

To make matters worse, sometimes it seems that we prefer ignorance. In my time on Facebook I was reprimanded for self-promotion when I shared useful links to this blog, and I was threatened with banishment from Acupuncturists on Facebook because I “acted like [I] know it all.” (I don’t know it all. I do know a few things.)

When many of us don’t understand or comply with our obligations under the ADA and HIPAA, are we ready to be a part of the Medicare system or have acupuncture be an EHB? Isn’t accurate information about ADA compliance an important part of our stated goal of having acupuncture accessible to all? It’s past time for our schools and organizations to make sure we have the skills, knowledge, resources and information to be successful practitioners now. The FPD, Medicare inclusion, higher standards, and expanding our scope/suing our competitors should wait.

Petitions, Medicare, and Licensure

Notable news items in the acu-world this week:

1)  We finally got a response to the petition to the White House to add acupuncturists to the list of Medicare providers. My regular readers already knew that a petition to the White House is not going to create the legislative and administrative changes that would be required.  (Newbies, you can use the tag cloud to find previous posts on the petition and Medicare.)  The response has (no surprise) created the usual teeth-gnashing, with acupuncturists (who seem not to have read the response) lamenting that Obama doesn’t like acupuncture, that it’s all about money and power, that we’re doomed,…. The conversation also shows that even among those most strongly advocating for becoming part of the system, there is still significant ignorance about what would be needed to succeed and the consequences for the profession of “success”.  Also not surprising — no response from the AAAOM or NCCAOM who helped distribute the petition — even though they should have known enough to predict the response and had a year to prepare.

2)  The latest Acupuncture Today newsletter included an article on the six states in “licensure limbo.”  I suspect that overzealous regulation on our part (for example, Delaware and Florida requiring extensive herbal credential requirements for acupuncture licensure) contributes to the lack of enthusiasm for a practice act among practitioners.  I also believe that the acupuncture community’s aggressive and disrespectful response to PT Dry Needling and to MD’s and DC’s who do acupuncture is a significant factor in the unwillingness of those communities to support a practice act in those states.  Actions have consequences.

3)  A new “threat” on the horizon — some LAcs on Facebook are up in arms about Tattoo artists who are doing “dry tattooing” for skin rejuvenation.  You know the drill — how dare they, we have so much training, we need to gather the troops to fend off this encroachment. My points — tattoo artists can use needles, they can do cosmetic work (tattooing eyebrows for people with alopecia and tattooing nipples for people who have had breast reconstruction, for example) and they could tattoo someone’s face completely blue if the client wanted it.  Facial rejuvenation acupuncture is typically not taught in acupuncture school. Is there any reason (other than arrogant self-importance) why we believe we should have control over this technique?

I’m still adjusting to the addition of Facebook into my life. I haven’t figured out how to stay informed and involved there without taking the energy and the dialogue away from The Acupuncture Observer.  For those of you on Facebook, like the Observer page and you’ll get breaking news updates between blog posts.

Also, for those of you interested in learning more about navigating the political/regulatory system I’ll be doing a breakout session at POCAfest,  on March 15th in Tucson.  I’d also be happy to come to your state association meeting, conference, or other event. Knowledge is power.