A Year of Action and Advocacy in Support of Medical Acupuncture
The Legislative Committee is tasked with monitoring state and national legislation that may affect AAMA members. In the past 14 months we have responded to bills and inquiries at the federal level and in 18 states and the District of Columbia: Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Florida, New Jersey, South Dakota, Hawaii, New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Washington, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. The majority of these bills fell into four categories.
Coverage for Acupuncture Services
The AAMA supports inclusion of acupuncture as a paid service for treatment of conditions like chronic pain and substance use disorder. Several bills promoted coverage of acupuncture by Medicaid and private insurers. However, as in the case of Medicare, we stated that the reimbursement rate must be commensurate with other procedures requiring specialized training and expertise otherwise physicians will not be able to provide this service to their patients.
Acupuncture for Substance Use Disorder
The Legislative Committee endorsed legislation in seven states that advocated for acupuncture as a treatment for Substance Use Disorder or as an alternative to opioids.
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia now permit physical therapists to perform dry needling. Requirements vary from state to state, but many require 50 hours of classroom and hands-on training before PTs may add this technique to their practices. While the AAMA’s official position has been that dry needling is not within the scope of practice for PTs, we are recommending guidelines for training. This is important since athletic trainers and PT assistants are now petitioning state legislatures to grant them permission to do dry needling as well.
Many legislators and insurance administrators do not understand that DOs and MDs may train to provide acupuncture just as licensed acupuncturists do. The Legislative Committee has encountered several instances where bills regulating the practice of acupuncture excluded medical acupuncturists or restricted our ability to provide this service. For example the District of Columbia licensing board changed regulations so that physicians had to be board certified by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture before being able to practice. However, the AMBA requires two years of clinical experience and 500 acupuncture treatments before applying for certification. Gavin Elliot, the Legislative Committee co-chair, convinced DC’s licensing board to overturn the new regulations since new medical acupuncturists would never be able to gain the clinical experience to become certified.
The Legislative Committee will continue to watch for bills that affect our AAMA members and respond to the authors and co-sponsors appropriately. We will also contact you when legislation in your state may affect your ability to practice acupuncture. We ask that you write your representatives and senators since they prefer to hear directly from their constituents. Together we can advance medical acupuncture for our patients who depend on us.
Donna Pittman, MD, FAAMA
Co-chair, AAMA Legislative Committee
Member, AAMA Board of Directors