2015 Legislative Update
In this update:
• A Surprise at the end of the 2015 Session.
• The 2015 Special Session – another 3 weeks!
• The Summer Initiative - we keep going!
• Dr. Mary Riggin’s big picture rant and solution.
Just as we were feeling really good about the Dry Needling issue and the victory over the Physical Therapists, another two professions sneaked up on us.
We were now faced with ARNP (nurse practitioners) and PA (physician assistant) legislation issues!
It came to our attention, very late in the legislative session; that the nurse practitioners/ physician assistant’s bill had been amended with a strike all amendment. The language in SB614 stated in pertinent part: These pain relief techniques include minimally invasive procedures, including percutaneous precision needle placement,
When we questioned this, we were assured that this has nothing to do with acupuncture needles. Really? It did not read that way to us or our legislative team, or others in the lobbying world. When we asked the bill sponsor, her staff assured us that it was related to injections. Okay, fair enough, so our thought was, if that’s the case, say that. Instead, they were using vague language that could be interpreted differently, after the fact.
Even in casual conversation about the bill, our lobbyist, Ramon Maury, heard someone mention that the acupuncturists would have an issue with this language. So, if the intention is for injections, why not put language in that specifies what they mean? But unfortunately, our request was not received well, so now we had this issue looming, just as we thought we were done for the year. Fortunately for us, the bill died in committee, so we were in good shape for another year – or so we thought.
Then it was announced that there would be a Special Session starting in June, which would specifically address budget issues and healthcare. This could give opportunity for any of these professions to get language in – our legislative work was not over yet!
After a brief break between regular session and June's special session, we were at it again! During June’s special session, all the legislators were back in Tallahassee. There was talk of healthcare legislation, and we kept a close eye on language that was being considered. In the mean time, we also used this opportunity to speak with multiple legislators and their staff about the possibility of our own bill for next session to further protect our practice.
Here’s the good news - special session ended and there was no legislation passed that would step on our practice act. We are good for now. Whew, thank God!
Now it’s time for our summer initiative.
The summer brings opportunity to be “at the table” and put ourselves in front of policy-makers and staff at the department of health, and other agencies that are involved in the regulation and enforcement of healthcare policy and laws.
During the past few years, we’ve used this time of year to make ourselves known, and to educate those “at the top” about the practice of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. This is necessary so they are aware of who we are and what we do and who to go to for information when policy issues arise that affect our practice.
It continues to amaze me how many, who work in government offices that regulate healthcare policy, still have no idea that we are licensed primary care providers!
We are also keeping a close watch on the various allied healthcare regulatory boards, like the Physical Therapy board, as well as others. This is where, in other states, dry needling has been gaining popularity, and not just with the PTs - other healthcare providers are looking at it too!
Just last month, a good friend of mine, who is a doctor, and who sits on a regulatory board, texted me from a national meeting where the topic of dry needling came up. The text read: “is dry needling acupuncture?” Oh my. They didn’t know! These were doctors and policy-makers from various states, discussing the possibility of allowing it! My friend, of course trusts my opinion, and was grateful for the information I was able to provide her. I also sent printed copies of the brochure from this web site: http://acupuncturesafety.org/10-facts-you-should-know. This tells the whole story about dry needling in the US. I’m grateful to the NGAOM and Dr. Freiberg for pointing out this valuable resource to us.
The reality is; this issue is only a symptom of the bigger problem our profession faces.
Here are the unfortunate facts regarding the general public's viewpoint about Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and our profession:
• The public doesn’t know who we are.
• They (the public) don’t know what we do.
• They don’t understand how it works, so they are skeptical.
• They don’t know what the educational requirements are for basic competency and to be effective.
• They don’t realize the state licensing required to practice.
• They have no idea that we are licensed as Primary Care Providers.
• They believe we are a luxury, not to be included in public health or as a medical necessity.
• They don’t understand the full scope of Oriental Medicine practice.
• They believe that only MDs have all the credible answers regarding health.
• They don’t know that an acupuncture needle is FDA regulated as a Class II “prescription ONLY” restricted medical device.
• They assume that when an allied healthcare professional uses an acupuncture needle, they are fully trained, equal to our training, since they are licensed professionals.
Making assumptions doesn’t always turn out so good. Just for fun, here’s a “pop culture” reference regarding the word “assume” from the old “Odd Couple” TV show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEP1acj29-Y
I hope you got a chuckle, I did when I found the link. I was a big fan of the show when I was a kid.
Anyway, back to serious business here.
Are we going to just sit back and let the vultures pick away at our medicine while those of us with proper education are buried in school loans, and too overwhelmed to do something? It’s happening right in front of us, and the public has no idea this is happening, the legislature has no idea, and the allied healthcare professionals that are in it for the money, could care less and are taking advantage of the situation before them.
The American professional culture has put the burden to fix this on “us” - the “profession” that is directly affected. You see, it’s not about the patient before you that need our help. It’s about who makes money, and that is supposedly us… (I don’t want to get started on that rant at this time.) Anyway, my point is this; we are the only ones that can fix this condition.
No one will speak on our behalf, it’s up to us.
Media coverage doesn’t happen by chance. That has to be paid for, and to date no Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine organization has stepped up and taken the initiative to handle our media “silence” (a few articles a year are NOT a public relations and media campaign – those are just “filler” human interest stories.)
So, what do we do? Well, the Society is continuing to do what it can with the limited resources we have. Our first and primary mission is to protect our members and our practice act. The Society is not about to let ANYONE open it up for any reason. It’s strong and gives us complete freedom to practice as primary care providers with access to the full scope of the medicine.
This legislative success happened because a few, very progressive thinking practitioners, stepped up in the 80’s and 90’s and were intent on accomplishing what was needed. We all understood what it would take, and were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to accomplish the legislative goals.
The result is that we have one of the best practice acts in the country!
Legislative activist, Dr. Richard Freiberg, LAc, AP, was asked by a past Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives: “How did your profession manage to erect such a practice act?” Dr. Freiberg answered, “little by little with key legislative support!”
This is where your communication and interaction with your local legislators can be helpful. If every legislator had at least one Licensed Acupuncturist they knew, our political work becomes easier when we are in Tallahassee. Our issues are now their constituents issues, and that carries a greater impact with that legislator and their staff.
Your responsibility is to continue to educate your patients and your local legislators about our practice, and continue to financially support initiatives that protect and promote the profession.
Go to www.fsdom.org for the various ways you can contribute. Every little bit helps.
Consider becoming one of the 300 AP warriors, and join our fight to protect our right to practice with freedom. Go to http://www.fsdom.org/#!the-300/c1st5 for more information about the 300.
A big thank you to our members and those of you that contribute and continue to help us protect the integrity of our amazing profession.
Dr. Mary Riggin, LAc, DAc, AP, DOM
President, Florida Society for Doctors of Oriental Medicine