Beauty and The Beast

This last winter, and now this summer, like many others, I have caught some nasty bugs.  After being sick for quite some time in March, I finally brokedown and went to an M.D. to have some tests done.  I had received my tax refund, so I decided to use that money to go.  When I told my mom I was going, she told me to ask them for a cheaper rate, a no-insurance-discount-rate.  I assured her I would–after all, I didn’t want to pay them any more $ then I had to.  But, when I got to the doctor’s office, there was a couple of receptionists and a few other patients in the lobby.  I wanted to ask for a better rate, but I was ultimately too embarassed.  I was sick.  I felt weird bargaining for a cheaper price for my own healthcare.  What was it worth to me to get better?  How could I put a price on that and then ask for a cheaper one?

When I got my bill a month later, I wanted to slap myself.  Hard.  It was $180 for the doctor visit and $120 for the tests.  I should have known it was going to be a pretty penny because when I was sitting in the waiting area, the magazines consisted of Golf, Bon Appetit, and Travel.  And that was it.  To me, that was odd.  

Last week, after getting another fierce bug, I decided that I needed to go get checked out to rule out strep.  I knew that I couldn’t and really, really didn’t want to go to the M.D. again (because that was a special-one-time-this-year-treat for me) and so I went to a clinic that sees low-income and homeless youth (under the age of 30).  Part of me felt guilty for going because I probably had more $ then most of the other people there, but part of me felt relieved and grateful.  The waiting room was full of people that I would hang out with.  The reading choices consisted of stuff that I was interested in reading and that pertained to my life.  I felt at ease.  When I told my mom that I went there, she seemed a bit alarmed, probably wondering why her daughter would go to a clinic where homeless youth go.  But, luckiliy, it was there for me to go to.

I hate insurance and all that it stands for.  Yet, at times, I wish I had it.  And, I hate that I wish I had it.  Why does it have to be this way?  Where is the in-between?  Can there even be an in-between?  Or does it have to be insurance ruling healthcare or no insurance at all?  How do we change this messed up system?

And, of course,  (dadadada!) this is where community acupuncture fits in.  

At times, when students at school hear that I will be practicing in the CA model, I get respones such as, “ohhhh, that is so nice of you!”  or “that’s great for the people who can’t afford regular acupuncture.”   I cringe.  No, no, no.  The point is being entirely missed.  I am not doing it to be nice or to help the needy.  I am doing it because it is part of the answer to changing the healthcare system.  In my eyes, and I am sure in many others, the healthcare system cannot be changed until the price structure is changed.  Right now, people pay hundreds/thousands of dollars to receive simple check ups and procedures.  We do so, or do not do so, because the price structure is set and we cannot change it.  From what I know about UHC, the price structure stays the same.  A colonoscopy can still cost $5,000-$10,000 and the hosptial will still get paid that high fee.   The money comes from a different place, but the often ridiculously high cost, is still the same.  

Healthcare needs to be affordable.  By making it affordable, it is accessible.  Everyone needs to get the same routine exams, not just those with insurance.  Not just the rich.  Not just the government funded.  By making acupuncture affordable, I feel that we, as healthcare practitioners, are doing our part to help make those small but important changes in our healthcare system.  We need to reach a larger part of the population.  EVERYONE needs healthcare.  We are setting an example by being a valuable healthcare entity that exists without insurance or government funds or private grants and funding.  The CA clincs are existing by setting an affordable price structure and because people are in need of healthcare and can afford to go there!  The clinics are being used.  And they are growing….

So, no, I am not going to practice in the CA model to be a nice person.  I am going to practice this way because I feel that it is our responsibility as healthcare providers to make a positive change in the system and to not contribute to the beast that already exists.  Yesterday, I was talking to a classmate who had just taken the CA elective at our school.  She told me that the class changed her perspective entirely.  CA, to her, went from just another option of how to practice to the way that we SHOULD practice.  When she said that, I wanted to kiss her.  But, I held back.   

Cortney Hartman
Author: Cortney Hartman

<p>I am one of the most recent and very-happy-to-be-so acupuncturist additions to Working Class Acupuncture, in Portland Oregon.  I learned about the community acupuncture model from year one of my studies and have been dedicated to it since then.  Not really knowing if and how I would have made it out of school sanely without it, I am so thankful for CAN and the founders, members, and all of the love and knowledge that abounds.  Learning and being challenged constantly, I am often amazed at how the CA model plays out in "real life" and am happy to be a part of the revolution and positive and much needed change in acupuncture and healthcare in the U.S..</p><p> </p>

Related Articles

Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. Nice to know you aren’t holding back…

    …your ability to keenly oberserve the role of CA as one of the first responders to the wreck of our current care delivery system.

    Thanks for reminding me also to keep an eye on the many ways our clinic sends signals that I take for granted (magazine choices in your recount above).