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Acupuncture Today
June, 2003, Vol. 04, Issue 06
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New Acupuncture Licensing Law Proposed in Kentucky

By Editorial Staff

Recent attempts to have acupuncture legislation passed in Kentucky can accurately be described as an ongoing study in frustration. In the past five years, Kentucky's legislators introduced bills on at least three separate occasions that would have provided for the recognition of acupuncturists as licensed health care professionals.

Each time, the bills were tabled by a committee, defeated, or dramatically altered by outside interests.

The most egregious example of this legislative boondoggling occurred when House Bill 160 was introduced by Representative Perry Clark in 1998. The original version of that bill included language that would have created a state board of acupuncture and related techniques; provided definitions for acupuncture and a generous scope of practice for providers; and implemented licensing procedures for practitioners. By the time lawmakers finished amending HB 160, however, all of the provisions pertaining to acupuncture were deleted, and the legislature was left with a bill calling for the creation of a government commission to study of the benefits of alternative medicine.

Based on those results, the idea of passing an acupuncture law in Kentucky would seem unrealistic to most people, but not state Senator Gary Tapp. In February, Sen. Tapp introduced Senate Bill 217, which amends existing law and adds new sections relating to acupuncture and naturopathy. If passed, it would make Kentucky the 43rd state in the U.S. to authorize the practice of acupuncture by licensed acupuncturists, and give consumers more choices by opening the practice to a wider range of health care providers.

Under SB 217, acupuncturists would not have their own board, but would be governed by a new entity, the Kentucky Board of Naturopathic Licensure. The seven-member board would be responsible for administering acupuncturist and naturopath licenses and certificates, and could enter into reciprocal licensing agreements with jurisdictions that have the same or similar licensing procedures for other health care practitioners.

The opening sections of the bill provide basic definitions for "acupuncture" and "acupuncture needle," among other terms. The acupuncture scope of practice also is defined, and includes "manual, mechanical, thermal, electrical, photonic, and electromagnetic treatment" of recognized acupuncture points, along with "herbal and nutritional treatments, therapeutic exercise, and other therapies based on traditional and modern Oriental medical theory." Naturopaths will also be allowed to practice acupuncture, acupressure and other therapies per their scope of practice.

Senate Bill 217 establishes both licensing and certification procedures. To apply for licensure, an applicant must demonstrate that he or she meets two or more of the following qualifications:

  • successful completion of the requirements for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine's (NCCAOM) diplomate status, certification of diplomate status in the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture (IAMA), or a comparative requirement;
  • successful completion of an acupuncture internship or "equivalent program" based on the board's standards;
  • passage of an acupuncture examination (such as the NCCAOM exam) or other "demonstration of proficiency" required by the board; and
  • passage of a board-approved clean needle course.

To become certified to practice acupuncture, an applicant must show that he or she has passed an exam or other demonstration of proficiency; completed a clean needle course; and successfully completed the requirements for full membership in the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, fellowship in the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, or similar "comparable requirements."

For acupuncturists already practicing in Kentucky, SB 217 includes a grandfather clause. The clause remains in effect through July 15, 2004, and allows current practitioners to qualify for licensure based on several criteria, including education, experience, and the amount of patients seen in the past three years.

In addition, a reciprocity clause is included for acupuncturists practicing outside the state. Section 15 of the bill allows the board to give the proper credentials to any person who provides proof that he or she "is engaged in the practice of acupuncture in another state, the District of Columbia, or a territory of the United States upon determination that the applicant is in good standing in the credentialing jurisdiction, and that the jurisdiction's standards are substantially equivalent" to those in Kentucky.

Senate Bill 217 was introduced by Sen. Tapp on February 18 and is under review by the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. If the bill is signed into law, board members would be appointed by the governor within 60 days of the bill's passage, after which the board would elect a chair and begin evaluating qualified applicants for licensure or certification.

Look for an update on the status of SB 217 in an upcoming issue of Acupuncture Today.


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