Legislation: Know Before You Go

Yesterday I received a survey from ASVA (The Acupuncture Society of Virginia). My excitement at being asked for my opinion quickly turned to surprise as I read the questions. Several deserve a post of their own. (The discussion is pertinent for other states as well.) Today I’ll look at “Should ASVA organize a grassroots campaign and fundraising to support the election of legislators that would be favorable to licensed acupuncturists in Virginia?” Perhaps it seems like a no-brainer to you — of course! Why not?

Here are my questions:

  1. What makes a legislator favorable to licensed acupuncturists?  If they think acupuncture is great and should be covered by insurance, but feel strongly that MD’s and DC’s should continue to provide acupuncture with short training, is that favorable?
  2. If our positions are unlikely to be amenable to MD’s, PT’s and DC’s, will any legislator go for support from the 400 Virginia LAcs without regard for the 34,000 MD’s, 7000 PT’s, and 1600 DC’s?
  3. Does their position on other issues matter?
  4. There are 100 Delegates and 40 Senators in Virginia – in how many races will we get involved?
  5. There are few open seats in any election year.  Do we support a challenger knowing that incumbents usually win and may bear grudges?  (In 2011 two Delegate races were won by challengers.) Does an incumbent need our support?
  6. In those two races each candidate spent about $500,000 on the race.  What is our best estimate of the amount we could raise and is it enough to have an impact?

What could we do that would be far easier? As individual practitioners we could know and support our state legislators and local candidates and be sure that they know us.  Make a few $20.00 donations over the course of a campaign to your local legislators (unless they are really awful, in which case support the challenger). Attend your Senator’s or Delegate’s Town Halls during the session and their Meet and Greets during the campaigns.  If you think they are decent, work for their campaign. Do what you can to educate them about our issues while making sure they know who you are and what you do. This is best to do when the legislature is not in session, as they have more time then. (Of course, if you ask them one week to get rid of the form that recommends a visit to a physician for patients because, after all, acupuncture is safe, and ask them the next week to make sure PT’s can’t do acupuncture because, after all, it puts the public at risk, it may confuse them.)

Making a difference in state politics doesn’t require a big campaign and, in Virginia and many other states, the acupuncture community is probably too small to be a special interest to be reckoned with any time soon. As individuals, though, we excel at building relationships. Build connections on a personal level and create legislators who are favorable to acupuncture — it’s the easier way.


Copyright —

© Elaine Wolf Komarow and The Acupuncture Observer, 2013-2033. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from Elaine Wolf Komarow is prohibited. Excerpts and links are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

5 thoughts on “Legislation: Know Before You Go

  1. Hi Elaine – First off – thanks for recommending my book and kudos on another great topic. While it is good to hear your state association is actively surveying its members, I agree with you that the resources that go into fundraising for supporting politicians can be much better spent in other ways. The greatest potential resource our profession has is the gratitude of the people we have helped with our services but no one has ever tried to “raise” those resources. You guys have 400 Acupuncturists in Virginia. If every one of those were to gather 25 testimonials from patients they had helped, you would have a treasure-trove of 10,000 testimonials. You could then use those testimonials to educate both your politicians and the public about the value of acupuncture. They would hear the testimonials of infertile couples who were blessed with babies and disabled workers now back at work being productive and earning their way and of elderly arthritis suffers now able to function without fistfuls of drugs and asthmatic children now able to participate in their favorite sports, etc, etc.

    The information gathered from such testimonials would come as a shock to those legislators because they, like the public, have no idea of just what acupuncture can do. And why do they have no idea of what acupuncture can do? Because we, as a profession, have never seen fit to take the time and effort do undertake such a patient-based public education campaign. If any professional association would like to seriously consider doing this, I would be happy to help. We could get more accomplished with this type of campaign than anything we have done since the early days of getting state after state to pass legislation to legalize Acupuncturists.

    By the way – I once asked that small group of pioneers who were responsible for getting acupuncture licensing legislation passed in so many states how they managed fundraising for their lobbying efforts and was pleasantly surprised by what I was told. That group said they did not believe in giving money to politicians to garner their support because they thought that if a politician truly supported what they were doing, they would do so without campaign contributions and those that wanted contributions didn’t really believe in the cause anyway. Refreshing, huh? Matthew Bauer

    • Matt,

      Certainly it is the case that our patients are a sometimes untapped source of support. Then again, all those MD’s, PT’s, DC’s etc have patients who would vouch for them if needed. Perhaps not in such a high percentage as our clients might, but, looking at it as a numbers game, we shouldn’t forget that other professions have supporters too.

      For me, the bigger issue is how we use the support that we have. Educating and informing legislators is absolutely a great and wonderful thing and should be done on an ongoing basis and hasn’t been. I did see many practitioners tap their clients to sign that silly petition, though, and that was the waste of a resource. Another question ASVA asked its members was whether they should explore legislative avenues to restrict other professions from using acupuncture. I don’t care how much patient support we would get, that is a bad idea, one that can’t win, and one that could do a lot of harm.

      So there are two questions — What is it we should be working for — big picture and based on a clear look at consequences, chances for success, etc., and then, how do we get where we want to go. You make good points about what could help us get where we want to go. (Not only would patients be supporters, but if we handled things differently than we have I’m sure we could get support from other professions. If we really did agree that Medicare coverage for acupuncture would be good, wouldn’t that be easier if we had MD’s etc. supporting us in making that happen? Couldn’t we get their support if we were inclusive?) But as important is what we take as our goals — what do we ask of the now informed legislators, for example.

      • I agree with you that trying to stop other healthcare professionals from using acupuncture is not a good use of our limited resources and that we would be better off trying to work with those professions. Every physical therapy facility of any size, for example, should have an Acupuncturist working side-by-side with the P.T.’s. The fact that the P.T.’s don’t understand this shows how unsuccessful we have been in that aspect of our efforts and publicly criticizing them over dry needling will only make any effort to see Acupuncturists hired to work in physical therapy facilities less likely to be successful. If we were working with them, they would learn that we bring more abilities to the table than just trying to relieve sore trigger points.
        The thing I am most concerned about however is the health of the “Licensed Acupuncturist” profession itself not how we fight for this or that. Far too many acupuncturists struggle and go out of business because they could not sustain a living from their practice. For more than 20 years, I have been convinced that making a public education campaign a top priority would bring a flood of new patients looking for acupuncture and this would help all those struggling acupuncturists to be able to stay in practice and then they could worry about how to best steer the profession. I finally gave-up trying to get our leading professional associations to undertake public education and that is why I decided to try to directly help individual practitioners build successful practices. I am also trying to reach-out to AOM schools to help improve their practice management type courses.
        We simply do not have enough acupuncturists in stable practices – those making full-time careers out of this practice. Too many of our ranks are working part-time and this destabilizes the profession as a whole. Had we made public education a high priority over the last 10-20 years, we would have had more of us in stable practices, the public recognizing us as the top authorities on acupuncture, and ended-up with a more stable profession with which to organize our efforts. It really is sad to see how unorganized we are after all these years.

  2. Even though I am probably moving on in another direction because of financial issues it pains me to hear the state of acupuncture in this country. I commend you who is willing and able to stay with this profession and fight for it. I understand both sides. Your organization is working from a fear based mentally and your working from a positive minded framework. It is hard to know what to do in this political and financial time our country is experiencing. I really don’t blame one side or another. It is just the way things are today because people are scared. If you understand that then maybe that will help you explain your position better.

    • I hear you. I do understand where it comes from. In my experience (many, many years on the ASVA Board, including several terms as president, many years on the state regulatory board, six months on the AAAOM board), the majority of those in power are unwilling or unable to listen to options. They seem intent on shutting down voices who disagree with their fear-based positions. I know many, many people who have given up after years of trying to have these conversations with the organizations and associations that are supposed to be leading us. I’m hoping this blog can be a place where those people can come together to help inform the vast majority of the profession who remains oblivious and uninvolved. I hope I can help people see that there are better options when we get out of our fear-based habitual thinking, and I hope as more people are willing to speak up we can begin to change the course of this profession.

      Thanks for commenting and good luck with the future, wherever it may take you. (If you haven’t read Matt Bauer’s Making Acupuncture Pay, you might want to.) (It is available on Amazon too.)

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