In June, more than two dozen acupuncture associations voted to create the National Guild for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, symbolizing the profession's continued progress toward unity (editor's note: see "Acupuncturists Vote to Unionize" in the July issue).
Since that time, the guild has actively promoted the interests of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, helping to raise awareness and demonstrate the profession's benefits to medical providers, insurance plans and the public.
While the guild has yet to gain much attention from the national media, their efforts haven't gone unnoticed. This month, guild executives will visit the nation's capitol to deliver testimony before a government commission on complementary and alternative medicine and present information on the status of acupuncture in the U.S. They will also meet with representatives of state and national labor organizations with the goal of establishing relations and expanding acupuncture services to thousands of federal employees and their families.
On December 4, guild president Ted Priebe, LAc, OMD, along with vice president Lloyd Wright, LAc and director of education and research Deke Kendall, LAc, OMD, PhD, will testify before the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. The commission, established by President Clinton earlier this year, has been given the task of making legislative and administrative recommendations to the president regarding research; training certification and certification of practitioners; insurance coverage; and other issues related to complementary and alternative care.
Among the issues the guild representatives are expected to discuss:
The current status of acupuncture in the United States, including cost-effectiveness, clinical effectiveness, acceptance and educational standards;
Access to acupuncture services, as well as demand from (and availability for) consumers;
Problems and potential problems facing the profession; and
Implications regarding public policy.
The guild's testimony holds enormous potential for the acceptance of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the American health care system. By making a strong presentation, they could help open the door for the inclusion of acupuncture services in federal programs such as Medicare. They could also help push forth legislation recognizing the legitimacy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine on a national level.
Two days after testifying before the White House Commission, on December 6, guild officials will meet with representatives of the United States Office of Personnel Management, Insurance Policy and Information Division (OPM); Union Labor Life Insurance Co.; and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Drs. Priebe, Wright and Kendall will represent the guild, with the goal of establishing a formal dialogue with each organization.
The OPM is the federal government's human resources agency. One of the office's primary goals, according to the OPM's website, is to provide "fast, friendly, accurate, and cost effective retirement, health benefit, and life insurance services to federal employees, annuitants, and agencies."
Union Labor Life Insurance is the nation's largest insurance company that specializes in the needs of union members. It provides insurance, risk management, and investment products for trust funds that manage the health and pension benefits of union workers. The company also offers life and health insurance products directly to union members and their families in cooperation with international and local unions.
AFGE, meanwhile, is the country's largest federal employee union, representing some 600,000 federal and local government workers nationwide and overseas. Government workers at every federal agency look to AFGE to provide legal representation, legislative advocacy, technical expertise and informational services.
Together, AFGE, Union Labor Life and OPM represent the needs of more than 30 million federal employees, retired employees and family members. This figure represents a huge potential patient base for the acupuncture profession and could bring the benefits of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to millions of Americans who currently lack coverage for these services. Providing coverage in states that do not currently have acupuncture licensure laws could also lead to greater pressure for legislation recognizing the practice of acupuncture on both the state and federal levels.
The National Acupuncture Guild for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is continually looking for ways to inform the public, the medical community and the nation's lawmakers about what acupuncture and Oriental medicine are and what they can offer. Those interested in joining the guild or finding out more about the guild's mission are encouraged to contact Dr. Priebe (Tel: 310-325-8054; e-mail:
) or Phyllis Wheeler, the guild's director of membership (Tel: 818-831-4140; e-mail: