New Mexico Legislature Revises Oriental Medicine Law
Legislation Clarifies Provider Definition and Sets New Licensing Fees
By Michael Devitt
In March 2000, the New Mexico legislature passed Senate Bill 117, which increased the scope of practice for Oriental medicine practitioners, provided criteria for the approval for educational programs, and created a state board of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
When SB 117 was passed, however, one of the issues it didn't address concerned licensing and renewal fees, which have not been increased since the early 1990s. This has presented significant financial problems for the Board, which operates on a very small budget and is limited in the amount of money it can charge applicants and renewing practitioners.
To rectify the situation, on Wednesday, April 4, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson signed into law House Bill 394, which officially goes into effect July 1. Also known as the Primary Care Provider Defined Act, the new bill provides the Board some financial relief by giving it the authority to raise licensing and exam fees. In addition, the bill creates new fees for other services; alters the time frame for license renewal; and updates the definition of a primary care provider.
HB 394 - A Closer Look
Under the new legislation, the state's existing definitions for acupuncture, Oriental medicine, doctor of Oriental medicine and moxibustion will remain as they currently appear in the state's Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Practice Act. However, the definition of a primary care provider has been expanded and clarified (italics indicate changes to existing law):
" 'primary care provider' means a health care practitioner acting within the scope of his license who provides the first level of basic or general health care for a person's needs, including diagnostic and treatment services, initiates referrals to other health care practitioners and maintains the continuity of care when appropriate." (Editor's note: "practitioner" replaces the word "professional"; verbage from "initiates" to "appropriate" is new language added to the definition.)
The bill also increases the ceiling on applications for licensing and temporary licensing, the application for approval (or renewal of approval) of an educational program, and the state's practical examination. In addition, HB 394 creates and defines the fee ceiling for three applications currently authorized by state law (see Table I).
Table I: Existing and new fee ceilings as proposed under House Bill 394.
Existing Fee Ceiling
New Fee Ceiling (as of July 1, 2001)
Application for licensing
Application for temporary licensing
Examination (not including the cost of any nationally recognized examination)
Application for approval or renewal of approval of an educational program
Application for extended or expanded prescriptive authority
Application for externship supervisor registration
Application for extern certification
Renewal of a practitioner's license, which had been scheduled every two years under the old law, will now occur annually. However, the fees for license renewal will remain at $400.
In an accompanying report, the Legislative Finance Committee cited several reasons for the fee increase and the change in PCP definition:
More than seven years have elapsed since fees were increased to keep up with normal inflation. Although the Board of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is currently charging the maximum fees authorized by statutes, it may still experience financial trouble. For instance, the Board currently pays the state $400 per applicant for its practical exam; however, it is limited by existing statutes to a fee cap of $350 assessed to each applicant.
The total projected deficit based on existing exam fees is $3,100 in the current fiscal year. In Fiscal Year 2002, the projected deficit would increase to $3,800, which the Finance Committee considered "significant based on the Board's annual operating budget of $167,000." The Board could offset these losses by increasing the examination fee and the associated fee cap in statue.
HB 394 recognizes that Oriental medicine practitioners are part of the primary care provider network, and that patients may use Oriental medicine as part of an alternative medicine regimen. It is believed that more insurers are likely to cover acupuncture treatment if it is perceived as part of a patient's overall treatment regimen.
After being introduced by state representative Rick Meira, HB 394 received unanimous recommendations from the legislature's Public Affairs, Business and Industry, and Appropriations and Finance committees. It was also passed by both the House and Senate by a combined total of 92-1 before being signed by Governor Johnson in April.
House Bill 394 officially goes into effect July 1. Those interested in obtaining a copy of the bill text, as well as bill amendments and committee recommendations, may access the New Mexico Legislature website (http://legis.state.nm.us) and click on the "Bill Finder" section for more information.