My Sifu once told me an old saying: "Once the dragon lifts its head above water, it opens itself to attack from the gods." Since I began acupuncture school in the late '90s, there has been an industry push to "mainstream" the profession of acupuncture.
Numerous organizations have been created to push the industry toward a doctoral degree and attempt to get more market share and greater access to the insurance industry. Unfortunately, the profession failed to recognize the obvious issue: We were going to push into the territory of the largest political lobby in existence, the AMA.
Now we are beginning to see the reality of our precarious situation. We have no professional lobby to protect us, no organization to even put up a unified front against the AMA aggression, and once the federal government is involved, the real pain will begin. After the "gods of medicine" and the FTC crush us underfoot, the words "Doctor of ..." on a degree will mean nothing except the fact that we overpaid for an unusable education and the insurance industry that currently uses any means to keep from paying for our services will be even less likely to reimburse us.
One has only to read the recent issues of Acupuncture Today to get a glimpse of just how badly we are going to be hurt. All the numerous associations have been plagued by political infighting, scandals, resignations under duress, financial issues and mismanagement. This is a sad state that the AMA and its action group will surely pounce on.
Sadly, our largest and best possible organizational option, the NCCAOM, has even crumbled with the recent test fiasco, not to mention the fact that it is the only professional test/licensure organization that I know of whose membership prices continue to rise even as more people enter the profession and the organization. This is not a trend you see in the aforementioned AMA or even among other professional health care organizations, such as that of the chiropractors, physical therapists, and so on. The costs continue to increase and we still do not have a political wing of this organization to help us out. I ask: Where is all the money going?
Among all of the other issues that make this profession such a hassle, it is no wonder recent studies show few practitioners survive over five years and that most have second jobs or other means of support to keep their practices going. I myself am now planning to leave the country or look elsewhere for a career path with some longevity. I hope to continue to see patients and study Oriental medicine as I have since I was young, but unless the rest of the profession here wakes up, bands together and our professional organizations get their act together to stand against the oncoming threat, I don't see much of a future for AOM in this country.
Good luck to us all,
Eric Smith, LAc
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