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23 October 2010
As the California governor’s race heats up, California acupuncturists may wonder where they stand with the candidates. Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate, is the most predictable. In his first term as Governor of the State of California, he legalized the practice of acupuncture and supported the passage of several laws supportive of the acupuncture profession. Jerry Brown also supported chiropractors, osteopaths, and lay midwives. His track record is clear. A win for Brown is assuredly good news for acupuncturists.
Outgoing Governor's Position
This would be a major change in the political winds for acupuncturists in California. Recently, Governor Schwarzenegger made aggressive moves to dismantle aspects of the laws protecting the rights of acupuncturists and their patients. He removed acupuncture from the Medi-Cal system which is designed to help the poor. As a result, acupuncturists can no longer take Medi-Cal insurance. Schwarzenegger also cut Medi-Cal benefits for dental, psychological, chiropractic, optometry, audiology, and podiatric care. Schwarzenegger also removed acupuncturists as primary care physicians in the worker’s compensation system and even went so far as to remove acupuncturists entirely from the worker’s compensation system for nearly two years until California legislators restored acupuncturists to the workers compensation system. Until acupuncture was restored to the system, workers could not receive acupuncture insurance benefits if injured at work. Moreover, Schwarezneggar actually disbanded the Medical Board of California, California Acupuncture Board. For approximately 8 months, there was no oversight of the entire profession in the State of California. Were the Acupuncture Board not reinstated, the profession may have needed to shut down in California.
The California Acupuncture Board operated at no cost to taxpayers and actually ran at a profit by collecting annual fees from acupuncturists. Schwarzenegger disbanded the Acupuncture Board, diverted the Acupuncture Board collected proceeds to the general fund, and left the profession unregulated and without oversight. Eventually, an outcry from the Chinese community and acupuncture supporters helped to reinstate the California Acupuncture Board albeit with less licensed acupuncturists being allowed to serve on the board. Thousands of years of clinical success behind Chinese medicine managed to overcome this political onslaught.
Whitman's Track Record On Health Care
What about Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate? A former Ebay executive and billionaire, she has no record of public office and no public positions on acupuncture, herbs, and Chinese Medicine. What is known about her is that she went to Princeton University in 1974 intent on studying medicine, however, she shortly changed interests to economics. Regarding medicine, Whitman states, “Our health care system needs some major improvements to address cost, quality and access. I believe in free-market solutions to help more Californians become insured.” Politically, “free-market solutions” is a catchphrase that indicates opposition to government regulation of insurance companies. One of the few healthcare positions she takes is that she intends to cut spending on healthcare benefits to prisoners. Ultimately, there are no specifics regarding her position on acupuncture, herbs, and Chinese medicine in the public record. Meg Whitman’s position remains unknown.
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