A consortium of professional acupuncturist associations have combined to help make acupuncture legal in every state in the US and to promote Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) education, research, and outreach with the AOM National Organizations Strategic Plan. There are no laws governing acupuncturists in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Alabama. Two of the most recent states to legalize the acupuncture profession are Delaware in 2008 and Kentucky in 2006. One of the first states to create oversight for the practice of acupuncture was California in 1972 when the California Board of Medical Examiners began regulating acupuncture for use in medical schools. In 1975, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law legalizing the practice of acupuncture by licensed acupuncturists and the California Acupuncture Board was created. In an interesting turn of events, Jerry Brown is again running for Governor which may support efforts to enhance accessibility to licensed acupuncturists should he win the race.
Acupuncture organizations nationwide have combined to create the AOM National Organizations Strategic Plan. This is a master plan that states, “By 2014, acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM), an independent, licensed profession, will be fully accessible to the public throughout American healthcare.” Key goals include promoting research, education, public awareness, and outreach. Also central to the plan is creating job opportunities for licensed acupuncturists in multiple healthcare settings. One important goal is to obtain federal recognition for licensed acupuncturists. Finally, the strategic plan seeks to achieve licensure for acupuncturists in every state. The participating organizations include: American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM), Federation of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Regulatory Agencies (FAOMRA), National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), National Federation of Chinese Traditional Chinese Medicine Organizations (NFCTCMO), and the Society for Acupuncture Research (SAR).
A key element is working toward federal recognition of AOM under Medicare and by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Currently, the BLS does not recognise licensed acupuncturists as a standalone profession. The BLS recognizes acupuncture as a procedure that may be applied by nurses and chiropractors and not as a profession. Recognition is widely considered the first step towards gaining Medicare coverage for acupuncturist services by licensed acupuncturists.
Section 3502 of the new health reform law recently signed by President Obama states that primary health care practitioners must “provide coordination of the appropriate use of complementary and alternative (CAM) services to those who request such services.” The goals of the AOM National Organizations Strategic Plan are synergistic with this legal provision. The new health reform law may help to move the BLS to formally recognize the acupuncture profession thereby opening the door to Medicare coverage for patients.