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From May 31 through June 3, 2019, an enthusiastic group of acupuncturists, including four from New Mexico, gathered in Washington, DC for a set of important events for our profession. Here is the ASA’s official report:

  The venue was a truly gorgeous historic hotel, the Omni Shoreham. The ballroom where the vendors were set up and where we had our lunches is the one that was used for many of the 20th century presidential inauguration balls. (You’ve probably seen it on TV.) That room and the one where we heard presentations were subarctic, due to being in the basement so that the building’s air-conditioned air sank down there to freeze us, so the beauty and luxury were marred a bit. However, the speakers were so fascinating that we didn’t want to step out of the room even for a few minutes to warm up.

The first day, Friday, was devoted to the 4th annual meeting of the ASA council, which I did not attend. Saturday and Sunday were packed full with presentations and networking. Monday hundreds of us hit Capitol Hill for meetings with aides to our members of Congress and senators.

While I have spent a lot of time at the Roundhouse, this was my first experience dealing with federal legislative offices, and it was the first time for Dr. Walston as well. Dr. Lujan is a veteran of Washington lobbying, although she did that work for other types of organizations in the past. You can find descriptions of the bills we were advocating for in the ASA report linked above and in Dr. Walston’s report below. 

We felt that our meetings on the Hill went reasonably well, but so far we did not gain cosponsors for these bills. Some of our colleagues from other states persuaded a couple, though. We are told that influencing legislation at the national level is a very long process, and we hope you will join this effort.
— Elene Gusch, DOM

The following is a summary by Yvonne Wylie Walston, DOM:

4th Annual Council Congress of the ASA in Washington DC, Friday, May 31, 2019
Each state that is a member of the ASA is allotted two delegates to the Council meeting, with one having Council voting privileges. There were 24 voting delegates this year, and the NMSAAM delegates were Yvonne Wylie Walston, DOM, Vice President of NMSAAM (Voting Delegate), and Bernadette Lujan, DOM, Legislative Chair of NMSAAM (who gave the report of NMSAAM activities).

Governance planning
Why join a state association and the ASA? What members get is a profession.

Committee updates: JASA
Note the difference between a scholarly journal and a consumer magazine or newsletter: with a scholarly journal authors do not get paid, while with a consumer magazine or newsletter, authors are paid.

The Journal of the American Society of Acupuncturists (JASA) is a scholarly journal and peer reviewed. (Note: The name was changed recently from Meridians to the Journal of the American Society of Acupuncturists to make it more in line with other scholarly journals for best acceptance by other professions.)
In contrast, Acupuncture Today is not a scholarly journal.

History of the new look: Editor Jennifer Stone as Art Director and Publisher was instrumental, while four MBA students created the design. A cost evaluation of the result was a $65-90,000 value for development of the new look and format.
1. Move the journal to a publishing company  
2. NCCAOM support
  3. Find out who JASA can send an advertisement to for financial support
  4. Question: Should JASA join the Journal of Alternative Medicine to ease the financial burden?

ASA goals:
Establish ourselves as the experts in the field of acupuncture.
Provide unified messaging to educate the public to advance the profession.

The web project platform
One and a half years ago, Olivia Friedman became disenchanted with Wild Apricot and began working with others to produce unified websites for state associations that would work together with the ASA site. The project has grown. Several states have signed up to have their sites worked on as well. New Mexico did not sign up for it until understanding the project better and taking it to the NMSAAM BOD. This ambitious project plan was to start with the Illinois Society of Acupuncturists (ILSA) as the pilot website, then follow with the ASA website. Like New Mexico’s, the web platform is WordPress. Not every association has signed up for this, but most of them have.

NMSAAM is 18th on the list to have our website converted. The initial cost would be $900, with ongoing costs that are not yet certain.

Medicare Discussion
The ASA has no history of lobbying for Medicare, because decisions were not made about whether it was desired or not. There is evidence that it is going to occur whether we get involved or not. Food for thought: Those that would like to be in Medicare need to be involved or we will be left out.

Medicare will not cover community acupuncture clinics, while Medicaid will, according to the speaker.
In the 1980s there was the birth of professional acupuncture in the United States. There never was a policy of only acupuncturists doing acupuncture.

If Medicare starts paying, nurses are claiming acupuncture for reimbursement also. Someone will be paid by Medicare to do acupuncture— if we aren’t included, it will be other professions doing it. There are 38,000 acupuncturists in the United States and there are more patients than we can cover, so we might need to consider other options.

Our Claim to Fame: We are the experts for acupuncture medical care (ophthalmologists versus optometrists). We have the full spectrum as we are the only ones who have studied the full body of Acupuncture and Oriental medicine. We need to manage this or it will manage us if we want to be involved in Medicare.

4th Annual Conference, June 1-2, 2019:
Summary: The ASA Inaugural Conference was an excellent gathering of a variety of acupuncture professionals working together for the advancement of our profession. There is room for the 38,000 acupuncturists in the USA to work with the military, with medical schools, in research, in underserved communities, as solo practitioners in their own practice where they accept insurance or do not accept insurance. They can become involved in the educational and codifying processes as advocates and lobbyists in the legislature, which NMSAAM members have done. The emphasis is on collaboration and integration without losing our uniqueness.

Each morning of the weekend began with Qi Gong on the terrace grounds led by David Peters, LAc, and it was fabulous.

It was a 10-year collaborative effort for the Department of Labor to officially recognize us with the title Acupuncturist in 2018. We do say that we do a lot more than acupuncture, but this is what we have and we need to work with it. There was a strong emphasis on collaboration.

The presentations in succession on Saturday were opening remarks by ASA Chair, David W. Miller, MD, LAc, “Acupuncture and Integrative Health,” “Acupuncture and the Military,” “Insurance Specialists Inc.,” “Acupuncture and Insurance,” Tianjiang/Treasure of the East, “Acupuncture for Underserved Communities,” Modern Acupuncture, “Acupuncture and Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management,” and “Acupuncture Research: the Relationship Between Acupuncture Research and US Legislation.” There were quite a few exhibitors in the adjoining hall, including our own Golden Flower Chinese Herbs.

Dr. Leonard A. Wisniewski, MD, FACP gave the first talk about acupuncture and integrative health. He has written a textbook about the science of integrative health. He says, What you have to give our culture desperately needs.

Dr. Chester “Trip” Buckenmaier III, MD, LAc gave a talk, “Pain and Pain Management: an Opportunity for Military Acupuncture.” He says that collaboration is important. He says that it is good to quit using the term “alternative”, and use the term “integrative medicine” instead, because it is recognized as science. He wonders if the ASA has established an agreed-upon effective theory of measurable benefits of acupuncture. Dr. Buckenmaier says that in the military they work to maximize function rather than obtain 0/10 pain.

On Sunday, there were some very helpful presentations about the governance of acupuncture with reports and Q&A with ACAOM, CCAOM, and NCCAOM. This was followed by an ASA member meeting and then the breakout sessions, “Pearls for Engaging Social Media,” “Insider’s Guide to Keeping Ahead of Changes in the World of Insurance” by Mori West, “Knowing the Key Acupuncture Research,” and an ASA Student Association meeting. The afternoon culminated with training for lobbying on the Hill. It was very helpful to learn the language and terminology of lobbying in order to approach and be heard.

4th ASA on the Hill: Congressional Fly-in Monday June 3rd
It was great to have my three legislature aide meetings with talented and veteran citizen lobbyists Bernadette Lujan and Elene Gusch. The training had been very good the day before, so it was an excellent way to learn by experience for myself. There is still follow-up to do by each of us to help with our “asks.” It is certainly a process that does not happen overnight.