Don't worry — nothing's on fire.
This post is about Working Class Acupuncture and CareOregon collaborating on a pilot project. This pilot will support innovative and strategic efforts within CareOregon to provide alternative options for treatment of chronic pain and anxiety/depression/stress. During the pilot, CareOregon members referred to WCA will receive access to as much acupuncture as they want, in order to find out if unlimited low-barrier acupuncture is genuinely useful to people living with chronic pain. WCA is donating the treatments and tracking utilization; CareOregon is gathering the data on outcomes. We would like to treat 1,000 CareOregon members over the course of a year.
FAQs (from friends and foes)
Q: That's interesting –what’s CareOregon?
A: In their own words: CareOregon is a nonprofit community benefits company that’s been involved in health plan services, reforms and innovations since 1994, serving Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) and Medicare members and their communities. Our mission is cultivating individual well-being and community health through shared learning and innovation. Our vision is healthy communities for all individuals, regardless of income or social circumstances. We focus on the total health of our members, not just traditional health care. In teaming up with members, their families and their communities, we help Oregonians live better lives, prevent illness and respond effectively to health issues.
Q: Wait, isn’t CareOregon …an insurance company? WHAT IS WCA DOING WITH AN INSURANCE COMPANY?!? OMG STOP YOU’RE FREAKING US OUT.
A: Don’t panic! We’re practicing mutualism. We’re cooperating. WCA’s doing what WCA always does, just in a different arena.
We believe that we can accomplish useful things by building relationships. Remember back in 2010, when WCA punks were part of the Steering Committee that set up POCA? This isn’t that different.
WCA can’t bill insurance; it would wreck our systems. Even our CPA said so! Billing is not on the table, and that’s not what this is about. This pilot is about gathering data that’s mutually beneficial, not about changing how WCA functions.
Q: And what are THEY doing with YOU (of all people!)?!?
A: According to CareOregon's Senior Medical Director, there are three reasons for doing this pilot:
1. to build the relationship between CareOregon and WCA
2. to provide patients w/ non medication strategies to manage chronic pain; the US is experiencing a public health crisis in the form of the opiate epidemic and acupuncture may be able to help
3. to provide data to both WCA and CareOregon — and to figure out if this works, can it be replicated?
Q: Hasn’t WCA devalued the acupuncture profession enough? OMG YOU’RE GIVING AWAY TREATMENTS TO AN INSURANCE COMPANY; HAVE YOU NO SHAME?!?
A: To be honest, we don’t have any shame about making acupuncture accessible, we feel pretty good about it actually. In terms of this pilot, think of it this way — wouldn’t it be great to have some substantial data about what happens when people with chronic pain have access to unlimited acupuncture? Especially about whether health care costs go down? Of course it would. Does the acupuncture profession have the resources to get that data ourselves? Of course we don’t. And neither WCA nor CareOregon has enough information about how CareOregon’s members will use WCA’s services to be able to figure out how a financial arrangement would work. Right now what we all need is information, and we’re cooperating in order to get it.
That said, it’s unlikely that any financial arrangement that WCA makes with anybody, ever, is going to make the rest of the profession happy. Truth is, we just get along better with CareOregon’s members and staff than we do with most acupuncturists.
Now would anybody like to ask a question without yelling?
Q: OMG WCA + INSURANCE COMPANY I CAN’T EVEN
A: Hush, you’re going to wake up all of the people who are happily getting treated as a result of WCA stubbornly ignoring conventional wisdom.
Q: OK. How did this pilot come about?
Thank you. On a smaller scale, WCA and CareOregon have have been collaborating since 2012. WCA provides acupuncture to the clients and of caseworkers of CareOregon’s Health Resilience Program. We started out by donating those treatments and we found that the relationship was very positive and mutually beneficial. Health Resilience clients are typically dealing with multiple health issues and are looking for non-pharmaceutical options to manage them. Working with them helped us figure out some of the core concepts of Liberation Acupuncture which has been really important for our school, POCA Tech. This relationship has not led to WCA changing its business model or billing insurance. It has taught us a lot about Trauma Informed Care, though.
Like we said, we just seem to get along well with CareOregon folks. It’s a good fit and it’s worked out fine, in part because money hasn’t been a defining aspect of the relationship. The difficult part is that the low end of WCA’s scale is still too high for CareOregon members with chronic pain, and so we’re trying to figure out what to do about that. Gathering data is vital.
Q: You have to admit that this is a little unusual, even by WCA’s standards. Right?
WCA approaches acupuncture as if it were a public utility, or a public library. It’s not about doling out treatments in tiny quantities to a few qualifying individuals, it’s about creating a resource so that it’s available to the community as a whole. It’s a distinctly different approach from billing insurance and also from charging cash rates that most people can’t afford. If we can provide 1,000 people with as much acupuncture as they want, and gather data about their outcomes, we’ll learn a lot about how our public utility strategy works with a population that really needs access to alternatives for pain management.
Q: Does this mean WCA is treating all CareOregon members?
A: No, not at this time. Currently WCA is treating CareOregon members who are referred to us either through the Health Resilience Program or through providers who are participating in this specific pilot. It’s limited to those two routes of referral.
Q: How do the logistics work?
If you work at WCA (staff or volunteer) please refer to the CareOregon Pilot Information sheet, coming soon to a front desk near you. We'll also post a copy inside the POCA forums.
Q: Will you be sharing what you learn from this pilot?
A: Yes, because that’s what WCA does — we share. Better together, and all that. We’ll keep you posted.