Acupuncture Continuing Education

Health Reform Law Provides Acupuncture

The terms acupuncture and acupuncturist do not directly appear in The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was signed into law by President Obama. However, the health reform law cites three indirect instances inclusive of acupuncturist services. The term ‘licensed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners’ appears in the law and pertains to licensed acupuncturists.

The first mention is in section 3502 of the 2,393 page healthcare law. Section 3502 charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the responsibility of establishing “a program to provide grants to or enter into contracts with eligible entities to establish community-based interdisciplinary, interprofessional teams (referred to in this section as ‘health teams’) to support primary care practices.” Acupuncturists are “eligible entities” as "licensed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners" meaning that they may receive funds from the government in the form of a grant or contract to meet healthcare needs of communities and individuals. These grants and contracts “establish health teams to provide support services to primary care providers” and “provide capitated payments to primary care providers.” As written in the new health reform law, this provision provides support for local primary care providers to “provide coordination of the appropriate use of complementary and alternative (CAM) services to those who request such services.” Overall, the thrust of this section is to promote integrated healthcare provisions across multiple medical disciplines in order to improve patient outcomes.

Section 5101 is entitled the National Health Care Workforce Commission. The Workforce Commission is charged with the responsibility of serving as “a national resource for Congress, the President, State, and localities” on the subject of healthcare. The commission is composed of 15 members appointed by the Comptroller General. Members are chosen on the basis of their expertise in healthcare. “Licensed complementary and alternative medicine providers” are defined as both health professionals and separately as members of the healthcare workforce in this section. Therefore, the responsibility of government recommendations regarding acupuncturist services are under the purview of this commission.

The Workforce Commission must coordinate with the “Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Education.” A major goal of the commission is to determine whether or not the needs of healthcare workers are met. The commission must also recommend ways to remove barriers to Federal, State, and local cooperation regarding healthcare. Finally, the commission is charged with providing “innovations to address population needs, constant changes in technology, and other environmental factors.”

The language is broad regarding the relationship between government programs and acupuncturists. As programs are enacted, expect to see integrated medical models emerge that include the services of acupuncturists. Perhaps this new federal mandate to include “complementary and alternative (CAM) services to those who request such services” by “licensed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners” will result in the inclusion of acupuncturists in the Medicare system or other government sponsored programs.