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Hinchey Reintroduces Legislation to Expand Acupuncture

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Post time: 2009-04-28 11:02:15
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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) reintroduced legislation to add coverage for acupuncture services to Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program on Feb. 22, 2005. If enacted, the Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act would provide access to acupuncture for Medicare's 40 million beneficiaries and the nine million federal workers, their dependents and retirees who are covered under FEHB.
"Acupuncture and other complementary medicines should be among the choices that are available to consumers," said Hinchey. "More than 40 million Americans regularly use some form of alternative treatment and more than 70 percent of the nation's insurers already cover acupuncture. It's discriminatory to prevent the one-fourth of Americans that are covered by federal health programs from choosing acupuncture as part of their health care regime."

Hinchey has introduced the Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act since 1993, his first year in Congress. Support for the bill has grown steadily, garnering 63 cosponsors in the 108th Congress, which ended in December. Hinchey previously advocated for acupuncturists at the state level, where as a member of the New York State Assembly, he introduced the 1976 legislation to license acupuncturists in the state.

"At a time when health costs are exploding, acupuncture offers a safe, noninvasive and extremely cost effective solution," Hinchey said. "It does not rely on expensive equipment or costly drugs. It does not require hospitalization and it can sometimes eliminate the need for surgery. Acupuncture is low-tech, low-cost medicine, which is why private insurance companies are adding coverage to their standard policies.

"Most importantly, we know that it works. Research has shown acupuncture to be particularly effective in treating chronic pain, addiction, and respiratory and digestive ailments. In the words of Dr. David Ramsey, who headed a special National Institutes of Health panel on acupuncture in 1997, 'It's time to take [acupuncture] seriously. There are a number of situations where it really does, in fact, work. The evidence is very clear-cut. It has few side effects and is less invasive than many other things we do.'"

The Federal Acupuncture Coverage Act would provide coverage for acupuncture services under Medicare and FEHB. Coverage would apply to services rendered by state-licensed, registered or certified professionals. At present, more than 40 states and the District of Columbia accredit acupuncturists.

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