As of Jan. 1, 2014, all small group and individuals health insurance policies issued, amended, or renewed in California must cover acupuncture. That means more people will have access to acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM is a useful holistic medical paradigm. It includes the modalities of acupuncture, herbs, exercise, body work, nutritional therapy and meditation, though acupuncture is the most recognized modality. There should be no limits on the number or frequency of visits but treatment may be limited based on the insurances’ definition of medical necessity. Typically, medical necessity only includes nausea and chronic pain, though some plans may not have this limitation. A few plans cover herbal formulas but are not required to.
Plans can no longer limit acupuncture providers to physicians. The acupuncture mandate does not apply if you enrolled in a group health plan on or before March 23, 2010. It also does not start until your plan renewal date in 2014. For example, if your health insurance originally started July 1, 2013, acupuncture coverage starts on July 1 this year. If your insurance plan does not follow these rules regarding acupuncture coverage, contact the California State Oriental Medical Association (800-477-4564) and they will look into it. When checking on your acupuncture coverage, inquire whether your deductible applies, what your co-pay is and any limitations on coverage.
When I left my private practice in San Francisco in 2000, every hospital but one used Traditional Chinese Medicine in one department or another. I worked in California Pacific Medical Center’s Occupational Injury Department treating workers’ compensation injuries with acupuncture and massage. In 1988, I studied TCM and practiced acupuncture in two Chinese hospitals. The integration of ancient and modern paradigms was impressive. I saw some amazing cures with acupuncture alone and in combination with modern medicine.
Acupuncture can be used for all types of things, either on its own or in combination with modern medicine. I use it on myself, my family, friends, animals, and the wild birds I help rehabilitate. I use it as emergency medicine when I am out on a hike and someone sprains an ankle, faints, or starts coming down with a cold. Other conditions TCM can potentially treat are premenstrual symptoms, abdominal pain, headaches, various muscle, tendon and nerve injuries, gastrointestinal issues, perimenopausal symptoms, stress and exhaustion, to name just a few. We need to take care of ourselves with enough of the right exercise, a good individualized diet, emotional clarity, spiritual practice, and when necessary, the best of traditional and modern medicines. Sometimes we need the “big guns” of surgery and drugs and when we do we can use acupuncture and TCM to help with the side effects, to support our life force and endurance.
Nina Allen, L.Ac., D.N.B.A.O., has an office at 518 S. Auburn St. in Grass Valley. For more information or to contact her, call 530-273-0098.