So, as a typical community acupunk, I get each issue of Acupuncture Today, but I rarely ever read the thing. More so than most mainstream magazines, this “publication” strikes me as a rather transparent vehicle for vendors and other monied interests to have a forum to push their agendas. This comes with an air of legitimacy, very thin air, in the form of “articles”. (It’s all about these great articles, man!) However, here’s an article that caught my eye:
Acupuncture No Longer Golden in California?
The first thing that came to mind is that somehow this is about insurance. The fact is that the California medicare program needs to make cuts, and guess who’s on the block? Well, in addition to us there’s: dental, audiology, optometry, chiro, podiatry, psychology, speech therapy. Notice anything about our chopping block peers? Yeah, it’s all highly specialized and services that aren’t often covered by private insurance. When was the last time you heard of dental or vision being covered by an employer? I mean, outside of the Fortune 500. . .
Even before I knew a thing about acupuncture or even healthcare I could see that insurance was a cancer. What could be more maniacal than making a business, a for profit business, out of denying people healthcare? Well, besides out and out death for dollars–that would be our current war profiteering gov’ment. . . But, I digress. No, I’m gonna digress big-time here.
I love Obama. At first it was just fun to say his name. Then it was knowing that finally, here was a decent fellow midwesterner in politics–I think Dan Quayle was the last person of national note from the ‘I’ state region (Indiana, Illinois, Iowa). (Man, how embarrassing was THAT, fellow Hoosiers?) Then he came out with a brilliant speech about race. Now, the subtext for all of us Marxists out there was loud and clear. Obama seemed to be saying, “Yes, we have a race problem, but the root of that problem and so many others in this country appear to stem from a class problem.” Now, I liked Obama for all the above reasons, but at the beginning of the primaries I was an Edwards man, all the way. Why? Well, I care a whole hell of a lot about healthcare, and Edwards had the best plan (and wasn’t a Clinton). What’s more than that, he actually seemed to care about this issue and was the only one of the three who _openly_ acknowledged this whole class thing, in fact, he based much of his campaign on it.
Now, Obama has a decent plan. (Just between you and me, I think he’s way more radical than he’s letting on, just being savvy until he gets in power, I can deal with that.) To quote some ten year old on Daily Kos “Obama gonna win.” Once that happens, I think he just might be able to push through something close to a national healthcare plan. Guess what happens then? That’s right, we’ll see the utter collapse of the insurance industry as we know it.
Now, I’m not naive, things may never change at that level in this country, but there are a lot of forces at work that are changing the landscape. There are a couple of scenarios here:
1. We FINALLY join the rest of the modern world (and Haiti) in getting nationalized healthcare. In which case, the insurance companies will be hard pressed to remain in the insurance business. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did indeed collapse. Guess what insurance-dependent acupunks, you’re now SOL. If you think even for a minute that the Feds are going to warm to acupuncture more than the state of California, you’re living in Aculand. (As an aside, guess what the rate for MediCal reimbursement was? $15!!! OMfreakinG!)
2. We get some freaky government backed hybrid monstrosity (lord knows, we don’t like hybrids ’round here) that competes directly with the current insurers, thus forcing them to try and stay competitive. Guess how they’re gonna do that? That’s right, they’ll do exactly what they’ve done the last couple of decades–cut benefits. Once again, who do you think’s gonna be on the block? That’s right, acupuncture!
3. Not a damn thing changes, but all of this renewed interest in the cost of healthcare makes the insurance companies nervous, people start asking pesky questions, the cost of healthcare continues to escalate–once again all of these “medically unnecessary procedures” are going to get the axe.
See, I think what must acupuncturists don’t get–at all–is that we are STILL part of the lunatic fringe. We’re no more highly esteemed then trepanning. Even though the entire USA might “know” what acupuncture is, that doesn’t mean they accept it. In fact, all they know is that it’s Chinese and involves needles. Ask anyone who’s actually had acupuncture and that becomes a woefully inadequate description. The schools do a good job of tooting the “integrated medicine” horn, but to be honest, most of that amounts to simply saying, “No, acupuncture isn’t completely crazy, probably just a delusion. But hey, if the delusion helps our cash flow, I mean patients, great!” How many “integrated medicine” inner city/rural clinics do you know of? No my friends, we’re a bunch of nut-balls operating in a grey zone of the unknown. What little coverage we’ve been able to gain on a state by state basis is probably due more the efforts of other modalities and we’re just along for the ride, thanks LMT’s and DC’s.
What’s my point? Well, I’ve been out of school for almost 2 years now, and guess what? Of my cohort, very few are supporting themselves through acupuncture alone. The ones that haven’t moved anyway to exploit an upperclass area that lacks a nice acu-boutique are now turning to the insurance cash cow to make ends meet. There are quite a few of us who have joined the Community Acupuncture movement. I think we all recognize that we’re operating on our own out on the fringes. Of course, I really see this as grass roots change. CAN is much like Dean’s 50 state political plan and Obama’s massive support coming from outside the establishment, we’re working from a model that seeks to give power to the people, not depend on wealthy donors. Which is what insurance companies amount to in the end.
We believe by helping people we can change what people “know” about acupuncture, and in that way it can change the world. As more and more CAN clinics open and more and more people get better we can give birth to this miracle of healing that is acupuncture. But, for now, we’re weirdoes, and until that changes, the insurance teat will always be a dodgy basis for your livelihood, even in California. . .