Getting to the point
Updated: 2013-09-13 11:15
By Cai Chunying (China Daily)
A section of the Affordable Healthcare Act - "Obamacare" - is being hailed by patients and practitioners of acupuncture, but it may not give them all they have been seeking, reports Cai Chunying from Washington
It is labeled "section 2706".
For Michael Jabbour, it's an "incredible milestone" for patients and practitioners of acupuncture, a healing technique that originated in China 2,500 years ago.
For the American Medical Association, section 2706 of President Barack Obama's healthcare law could pose a threat to patients by having them seek and "subjected to inappropriate or unproven treatments".
A patient receives acupuncture treatment at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, the first acupuncture school accredited under a different name in 1982. It now has 225 students studying acupuncture and 22 clinical treatment rooms open to the public. Cai Chunying / China Daily
What the section does is to provide a potential new opening for some types of holistic practitioners - including acupuncturists - who have been struggling for decades to be included on equal footing with medical doctors for the delivery of services and reimbursement by insurance companies. The section, titled "non-discrimination in health care," becomes effective Jan 1, 2014.
The provision states: "A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any healthcare provider who is acting within the scope of that provider's license or certification under applicable State law."
Under section 2706, if a patient chooses to use a licensed acupuncturist to treat his symptom, for instance, back pain which acupuncture is said to be good for, and if the back pain treatment is covered by the patient's healthcare plan, insurance companies could not deny a reimbursement claim from the acupuncturist, which has not been the case in many states.
"In the past, insurers could decide what they want to cover, who can provide the medical service, and how much service can be provided. Under this provision, they are not allowed as much freedom to do so," said Jabbour, president of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the leading national membership organization for the profession. Jabbour also operates an acupuncture clinic in New York State.
As promising as it may sound, section 2706 has not escaped the political battles that the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA) has encountered since being passed by Congress.