The latest incarnation of the Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act (H.R.1479) is in the process of wending its way through the House of Representatives, after having been introduced to the current congressional session on March 12, 2007.The bill, known as the Hinchey Bill for its sponsor, Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22), would cover acupuncture under Plan B of Medicare and also provide coverage to federal employees under the Federal Employees Benefits Program.
The relevant portions of the current bill read as follows:
To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of qualified acupuncturist services under part B of the Medicare Program, and to amend title 5, United States Code, to provide for coverage of such services under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program...
The term 'qualified acupuncturist services' means such services furnished by a qualified acupuncturist ... and such services and supplies furnished as an incident to services furnished by the qualified acupuncturist which the qualified acupuncturist is legally authorized to perform under State law...
The term 'qualified acupuncturist' means an individual who has been certified, licensed, or registered as an acupuncturist by a State (or the State regulatory mechanism provided by State law).
The bill, which currently has 12 cosponsors, was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Ways and Means, and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform the day that it was introduced. As of press time, hearings have yet to be scheduled.
The cosponsors are:
Neil Abercrombie (HI-1)
Sam Farr (CA-17)
Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-7)
Luis V. Gutierrez (IL-4)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18)
Jerry McNerney (CA-11)
Michael R. McNulty (NY-21)
Jerrold Nadler (NY-8)
Ron Paul (TX-14)
Edward R. Royce (CA-40)
Janice D. Schakowsky (IL-9)
Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA-13)
Robert E. Marcus, JD, who originally lobbied for the Hinchey bill on behalf of the Acupuncture and Oriental National Coalition, and is now lobbying on behalf of the Association for Traditional East Asian Medicine, explained that this current bill is the eighth incarnation, going back to 1993.
He urges acupuncturists and patients to contact their local Congressional representatives and ask them to consider cosponsoring this bill. He told Acupuncture Today, "Once US Representatives have heard from constituents/practitioners/patients, they would be more likely to co-sponsor the new acupuncture bill ... The more co-sponsors, the better the chances that the language of Rep. Hinchey's acupuncture bill can be folded into a larger (also) 'new' Medicare bill [and] can be sent to the floor of the US House of Representatives...and ultimately sent to the president for his signature."
Marcus added that despite the glacier pace at which bills may move through Congress, getting H.R. 1479 signed into law is an ongoing process, which will ultimately serve both the AOM community and the American people as a whole. For anyone interested in helping lobby for the bill, please contact Marcus at , or by phone at (276)492-8098.