So I have an interesting story to pass on to the CA folks out there. It is a conversation I had with a doctoral student here at my acupuncture school (I’m a master’s student). I was at my work study job in the library when said doctoral student came in and started to complain about the deterioration of the Oregon Acupuncturist’s Association (OAA) under the leadership and philosophy of the new president (read: Lisa Rohleder).
Being a doctoral student, this person has a Master’s degree already, and has been practicing acupuncture for, I think, at least 5 years. His theory is, in a nutshell, that by charging $15 for a treatment, community acupuncturists are devaluing our profession financially and degrading our practice in the eyes of the medical establishment – insurance companies and biomedical doctors. Furthermore, once the insurance companies learn that there are $15 acupuncture treatments available, they will quickly drop their reimbursement levels. I guess for practitioners who rely heavily on billing insurance, this would be an unwanted turn of events.
From a previous conversation I’d had with this person, I know that he is a proponent of contract work for acupuncturists in clinics run by accident-driven chiropractors, where we can treat pain situations and charge the insurance companies loads of money. He told me this is the only realistic way an acupuncturist can repay student loans while maintaining a regular private practice.
As an uninsured student who is drawn to acupuncture and Chinese medicine for its holistic energetic nature and the idea that it can be very affordable, I was a little put-off by this blatant attack on a medicine-model that seems to tip the scales of health empowerment from the insurance companies back to the citizens. I hear his argument that these companies will not want to pay loads of money when there are $15 alternatives out there, but, to me, it’s the insurance companies that are the bane of this western medical system. He thinks CA is the bane of the his existence as an acupuncturist and is writing his doctoral capstone on this theory.
I will practice CA when I graduate. Our society is in desperate need of a medical paradigm that provides affordable, and therefore usable, health care. I know that there is no one-sided solution to any problem, and i don’t want to compete with MDs. But I do want to contribute one part to a solution. Most of the people in this country (not to mention the world) have no “health care”. If we have the ability and power to provide that missing level of care, why should we not do it? And is it possible to survive as a practitioner on a sliding-scale model? Do we have the power to fight the system?