From California to Florida, and All Points Between: A Brief Look at the Progress of AOM Across the Country
By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large
In the last month, I have traveled nearly 7,500 miles across the U.S., attending meetings, delivering seminars and speeches, and doing a variety of things to help raise public awareness about the benefits of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
The following is a brief look at some of the things I've encountered on my recent travels.
Graduation Day at Emperor's
It was a warm and breezy Sunday afternoon in Santa Monica, California, and I found myself in a large ballroom of a prestigious hotel. I had just marched into the room to the sound of a strong and steady drumbeat, which was being performed by Will Morris, LAc, OMD, the director of clinics at Emperor's College of Oriental Medicine, along with several other faculty members, for the beginning of the college's graduation exercises. There were feelings of great excitement and achievement, along with well-deserved congratulations for those graduating.
Mary Hardy, MD, medical director of the integrative medicine program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was the keynote speaker. She spoke about the integration of Eastern and Western medicine, and concluded her speech by welcoming the graduates to the profession and saying she was glad that they are here.
David Solin Lee, Emperor's chief executive officer, also spoke briefly. He announced that the school's academic program had just received its five-year accreditation from ACAOM. Congratulations to David and his administration, staff and students for a job well done.
Ray Rubio, LAc, a professor at Emperor's, represented the faculty and made a very impressive speech to the graduates and their guests. This was especially gratifying for me, as Ray is a former student of mine who is rapidly becoming a leader in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
I experienced a special moment when Pedram Shojai (head of the student council), Michael Yang and Moses Yu, Jr. told the audiences about their experiences at Emperor's, then serenaded the graduates and guests (with the appropriate words) to the melody of "Happy Trails to You." At that moment, I had the feeling that Emperor's had transitioned itself into becoming an outstanding graduate school.
The overall experience of Emperor's graduation ceremony was moving and meaningful. Congratulations again to the school for its hard work and the excellent ideas expressed in its commencement exercises.
All's Well in Florida
Last month, I was in Tampa, Florida conducting a seminar about marketing and building a practice. It is always a great experience to meet with professionals from across the country and realize that practices are similar; that patient needs and problems are somewhat the same; and that marketing ideas work everywhere. I have been in the field of Oriental medicine since 1986, and while I've seen a lot of changes in the past decade and a half, none of them have been as dramatic as the changes that have occurred in the past two to three years. More practitioners are beginning to prosper in practice. More of them are beginning to buy homes and make enough of a living to support their families without having to take another job.
This marketing seminar, which is being presented by Honora Wolfe and myself, has thus far been very well received. We thank you for your generous acceptance and look forward to seeing you at future seminars.
One question I am routinely asked at seminars is, "Does Medicare cover acupuncture?" When I reply that it does not, the next question I am asked is usually, "When will it be reimbursed by Medicare?" The good news is that a bill that would provide Medicare coverage for acupuncture treatments has been introduced before Congress.
House Resolution 747 was introduced by Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) in February. Also known as the Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act of 2001, the bill would amend the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of "qualified acupuncturist services" under part B of the Medicare program. In addition, HR 747 would amend Title V of the U.S. Code to provide acupuncture services under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Patients would be allowed to visit and be treated by an acupuncturist without supervision or referral by another health practitioner, and providers would be entitled to reimbursement for the services performed.
Medicare provides health benefits to the nearly 35 million U.S. citizens age 65 or older, a group that accounts for approximately one-eighth of the population. Among other things, part B of Medicare helps pay for some doctor services; outpatient hospital care; diagnostic lab tests; and preventative services (such as flu shots and prostate screenings). The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, meanwhile, provides health benefits coverage for federal employees and their dependents: some nine million people in all, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
These figures represent a huge potential patient base for our profession. Imagine being able to provide the benefits of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to more than 40 million Americans who currently lack coverage for these services. Just think what an influx of new patients could do to your practice, and how those patients could spread the word about you and the healing effects of acupuncture to their friends and family members.
So far, HR 747 is off to a good start. Since it was introduced by Representative Hinchey, nearly two dozen other representatives - both Democrats and Republicans - have signed on as cosponsors. It has also been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means; and Government Reform for review, so that specific provisions of the bill can be considered as they relate to each committee's jurisdiction.
But that isn't enough. There is still plenty to do, and your help is needed to ensure that HR 747 becomes law. Now is the time to act. I urge you to contact your state's elected officials and voice your support for the Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act. (You can find the name of your representative online at the House of Representatives website -- www.house.gov -- or at Your Congress -- www.yourcongress.com.)
Remember: together, we can make a difference.
Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.