To the editor:
A bill presently before our state Legislature, House Bill 3519, would mandate acupuncture coverage as an option of medical treatment for the people of this commonwealth.
Presently, only a handful of health insurance plans here provide access to acupuncture treatment. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health recommended acupuncture's integration into our health care system.
After its rigorous evaluation, the NIH concluded that acupuncture was effective in the treatment of many conditions and was often significantly safer and less expensive than more conventional medical interventions.
Acupuncture's integration has been slow, but a favorable recommendation from the Joint Committee on Finance, in which it now resides, could move this process forward. This legislation presents a win-win situation for all parties.
Acupuncture is an unassailably effective and very safe medical intervention that patients should have the option to use. Acupuncture has been shown in a number of studies to be cost-effective.
A Rand Health report recommends that insurance companies "need not fear acupuncture coverage." The evidence supports acupuncture's use in place of more expensive (and often unproven) procedures or medications. Two large studies comparing treatment for low back pain (second only to the common cold as a reported medical complaint) showed that acupuncture was at the highest level of effectiveness.
In response to the weight of this scientific data, the British health care system now recommends acupuncture as a first line of treatment for low back pain. The German health care system, as well, has integrated acupuncture.
The United States military has been using "battlefield acupuncture" in Iraq and Afghanistan for the treatment of PTSD and is using acupuncture stateside for the treatment of complex pain conditions such as phantom pain. And at a time when emergency room visits for prescription drug overdoses nearly eclipses auto accidents, acupuncture provides an option that is non-pharmacological.
It is without question that the scientific due diligence on acupuncture has been done. It is a medical intervention that can benefit patients and is safer and less expensive than many more "conventional" medical treatments.
As is so often is the case, the integration of acupuncture is not a matter of science, it is about politics. House Bill 3519 awaits action from the Joint Committee on Financial Services. But for co-chairmen Rep. Michael Costello (617-722-2220) and Sen. Anthony Petruccelli (617-722-1634), this is just one more proposed legislative initiative among many competing for their attention. Given that the acupuncture profession is one that lacks deep pockets, there will not be a team of lobbyists up on Beacon Hill pressing for logic to prevail. For the citizens of this commonwealth to have access to this safe and effective medicine, it is up to them to advocate for passage of this bill.
Please call and write your own representative and senator, along with the co-chairmen, and tell them that you support this important legislation. For more information, visit www.aomsm.org.
Mariane Legault, Lic. AC
Karen Schwartz, Lic. AC
First Choice Health Center