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California Acupuncture gets Health Insurance Coverage

on 01 March 2011.

A bill to require California based health insurance policies to provide acupuncture coverage has been introduced into the California State Assembly by Assemblyman Mike Eng. The bill includes all healthcare insurance policies, including disability insurance policies, with the exception of HMOs (Health Maintenance Organization) and those that are “specialized health care service plan contracts.” If signed into law, the bill will take effect on January 1, 2012.

A similar acupuncture bill was shot down with a veto in 2008 by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger was also responsible for dissolving the California Acupuncture Board, leaving the profession without oversight for nearly an entire year until public pressure forced him to reinstate the California Acupuncture Board. Now, with Governor Jerry Brown in office, the bill may survive the legislative process. In 1975 during his first term, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law legalizing the practice of acupuncture by licensed acupuncturists and the California Acupuncture Board was created.

Assemblyman Eng notes that acupuncture is an “effective treatment for a number of conditions” and further states that acupuncture is "cost effective and typically much cheaper than the surgeries for which it is often an alternative." Assemblyman Eng’s statements are supported by substantial research including studies showing that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of plantar fasciitis1, retinitis pigmentosa2-6, anxiety7, chronic sinus congestion8, sleep apnea9, bedwetting10, autism11-16, back pain17-18, headaches and migraines19-20, menstrual cramps21-22, tennis elbow23-24, and knee pain25-26. Assemblyman Mike Eng represents the cities of Alhambra, El Monte, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, and South El Monte.

The civilian population is slowly gaining access to acupuncture health insurance coverage. On the other hand, the military has been one area of the government which has been an early adopter of acupuncture as part of standard health care. The US Air Force runs a full time acupuncture clinic at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Col. Richard Niemtzow, an Air Force physician, first offered acupuncture in 1995 at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington now recommend acupuncture for the treatment of physical pain due to injuries. Dr. Stuessi (a Navy sports medicine physician who works in a special concussion restoration care center that utilizes acupuncture) notes, “I’ve found phenomenal, off-the-charts results doing acupuncture for sleep, for dizziness and headaches.” Also, the Navy has an acupuncture training program for doctors at Camp Pendleton in California. Dr. (Maj.) Ronald White, director of pain services at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, performs acupuncture in the US military and comments on its usefulness, “There’s no risk; it gives you benefit. Our goal — my end result — is function. If you come to me complaining that you can’t play with your kids, you can’t sleep at night, you can’t work… six months later, I have you playing, sleeping and back to work….”

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References:

1 Shi Ping Zhang, Tsui-Pik Yip, and Qiu-Shi Li.  Acupuncture Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Six Months Follow-Up. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative, Medicine, Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 15410.

2 Sun He , Zhang Hu. The Protective Effect of Acupuncture Treatment on Retinal and Optic Nerve Axonal Ultrastructure in Rabbit Eyes with Chronic Elevated IOP. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 2010-05.

3 Wu Xing-Wei; Tang You-zhi. Study on Treatment of Retinitis Pigmentosa with Traditional Chinese Medicine by Flicker Electroretinogram. CHINESE JOURNAL OF INTEGRATED TRADITIONAL AND WESTERN MEDICINE. 1996-06.

4 Hao Xiaobo, Wang Guihong, Peng Changxin, et al. (Department of Ophthalmology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi University of TCM, Nanning 530023, China). Study on treatment of retinitis pigmentosa with acupoint injection of Shexiang Injection. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 2003-4.


5 Reddy NS, Fouzdar NM. Role of acupuncture in the treatment of `Incurable' retinal diseases. Indian J Ophthalmol 1983;31:1043-6.

6 Wu Xing-Wei; Tang You-zhi. Study on Treatment of Retinitis Pigmentosa with Traditional Chinese Medicine by Flicker Electroretinogram. CHINESE JOURNAL OF INTEGRATED TRADITIONAL AND WESTERN MEDICINE. 1996-06.

7 Shengjun Wu, Jie Liang, Xia Zhu, Xufeng Liu, Danmin Miao. “Comparing the treatment effectiveness of body acupuncture and auricular acupuncture in preoperative anxiety treatment.” JRMS 2010; 16(1): 39-42.

8 An Hua, Qinhuangdao Port Hospital, Hebei, China. "Treatment of 85 Cases with Chronic Rhinitis by Acupuncture." J. Acupunct. Tuina. Sci. 2010, 8 (5): 318.

9 Immediate effect of acupuncture on the sleep pattern of patients with obstructive sleep apnoea, Anaflávia O Freire, Gisele C M Sugai, Sônia Maria Togeiro, Luiz Eugênio Mello, Sérgio Tufik; Acupunct Med 2010;28:115-119.

10 Acupuncture as a treatment for nocturnal enuresis, W.F. Bower, M. Diao , Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical; 28 October 2010 (Vol. 157, Issue 1, Pages 63-67).

11  Altern Med Rev. 2010 Jul;15(2):136-46. Randomized controlled trial of electro-acupuncture for autism spectrum disorder. Wong VC, Chen WX. Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



12 American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.; 1994.



13 Wong V. Can acupuncture of the tongue help autism? Autism-Asperger’s Digest Sept-Oct 2002;18-19:25,29.



14 Haley SM, Coster WJ, Ludlow LH, et al. Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory: Development, Standardization, and Administration Manual, Version 1.0. Boston MA: PEDI Research Group; 1992.


15 Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR). WeeFIM System SM. Clinical Guide: Version 5.01. Buffalo, NY: University at Buffalo; 2000.



16 Schopler E, Reichler RJ, Renner BR. The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS): For Diagnostic Screening and Classification in Autism. New York, NY: Irvington; 1986.


17 Furlan AD, van Tulder M, Cherkin D, et al. Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain: an updated systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane collaboration. Spine. 2005;30(8):944–963.

18 Manheimer E, White A, Berman B, et al. Meta-analysis: acupuncture for low back pain. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2005;142(8):651–663.

19 Coeytaux RR, Kaufman JS, Kaptchuk TJ, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of acupuncture for chronic daily headache. Headache. 2005;45(9):1113–1123.

20 Diener HC, Kronfeld K, Boewing G, et al. Efficacy of acupuncture for the prophylaxis of migraine: a multicentre randomized controlled clinical trial. Lancet Neurology.
2006;5(4):310–316.

21 Proctor ML, Smith CA, Farquhar CM, et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and acupuncture for primary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2002;(1):CD002123.


22 White AR. A review of controlled trials of acupuncture for women's reproductive health care. The Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. 2003;29(4):233–236.

23 Bisset L, Paungmali A, Vicenzino B, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials on physical interventions for lateral epicondylalgia. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2005;39(7):411–422.

24 Green S, Buchbinder R, Barnsley L, et al. Acupuncture for lateral elbow pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2002;(1):CD003527.

25 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Technology Assessment: Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2003.

26 Berman BM, Lao L, Langenberg P, et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture as adjunctive therapy in osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2004;141(12):901–910.