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NCCAOM Advocacy Update Spring 2019

It’s a new year and the NCCAOM Advocacy team has been working diligently since our last update. We have several pieces of news to share on our various advocacy projects, including our work with the AMA’s CPT Editorial Panel, the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and our newly launched website! We have a full slate of work for 2019 and are excited to continue advocating for our Diplomates and the profession this year and beyond.

AMA CPT Process

NCCAOM Advocacy has been closely engaged with recent efforts to update the American Medical Association’s CPT codebook relating to acupuncture procedures. Click here to read our full statement on our work so far, and we will continue to keep Diplomates informed of ongoing developments.

NCCAOM Medicaid Outreach

Please see our statement detailing exciting achievements on promoting acupuncture in the states through Medicaid.

Medicare National Coverage Analysis

In January 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the agency was opening a new National Coverage Analysis (NCA) for acupuncture for chronic low back pain (CLBP). This comes as part of the Health Department’s efforts to address the opioid crisis by promoting evidence-based, non-pharmacologic treatment options for chronic pain. While there may not be a final decision for a while, this move would be a potential first step for Medicare to cover acupuncture for CLBP as reasonable and necessary under the program.

The first step in the NCA is a solicitation of public comment, and the NCCAOM Advocacy Committee has worked to submit a joint response letter on behalf of the NCCAOM and the American Society of Acupuncturists. Our letter supports the NCA and advocates for the inclusion of acupuncture for CLBP in the Medicare program. This was a great opportunity for the NCCAOM to provide high-quality scientific evidence supporting acupuncture as well as information on certified acupuncturists as the most appropriate clinicians to provide these services to Medicare beneficiaries.

You can read our full submission here, which was sent to CMS ahead of the February 14, 2019 deadline. The review is expected to be completed by October of this year, with the proposed decision first being released in mid-July. NCCAOM Advocacy staff will continue to engage with the agency as this process unfolds, and work to make sure that the final decision by CMS will provide the best outcome for our Diplomates. We are excited for this potential inroad with Medicare towards federal recognition and are looking forward to communicating further developments with you.

New Online Advocacy Hub

As part of the NCCAOM website’s relaunch, we are proud to present the brand new NCCAOM Advocacy hub, hosting all information relating to our state and federal advocacy efforts. Here, you can find an archive of our past Advocacy Updates, an overview of state licensure requirements and other relevant state information, and a timeline of our work towards increased federal recognition of acupuncture.

Additionally, we are excited to release our Advocacy Toolkit, a major resource in our efforts to support Diplomates in their own advocacy and grassroots efforts. The Advocacy Toolkit includes a range of documents that can serve as a go-to resource for Diplomates who want to advocate for the profession and NCCAOM certification in their own communities. This toolkit will continue to grow and evolve as we highlight new areas of focus for advocacy. The documents in the toolkit provide curated, targeted information about acupuncture, the NCCAOM and our priorities and goals for expanding access and serving our Diplomates.

The current resources in the Advocacy Toolkit include:

  • Acupuncture Backgrounder: This provides a succinct, informative overview of the practice of acupuncture and its history. Lawmakers, regulators, and staff that are unfamiliar with acupuncture or who may have outdated or inaccurate notions about the practice can rely on this document as a quick summary of what our Diplomates do.
  • Certification Backgrounder: This provides an overview of the NCCAOM, its mission, and its history. It also details the certification process and the importance of the rigorous testing and competency assessment that ensure the gold-standard competency of NCCAOM Board-Certified Acupuncturists.
  • Opioid Crisis White Paper: This paper details how acupuncture, performed by qualified, competent, and certified practitioners, can help address the opioid crisis. It outlines the numerous recommendations by federal bodies and national organizations encouraging the expansion of access to non-pharmacological pain management modalities, and details some of the key evidence supporting acupuncture as a potential solution.
  • VHA Backgrounder: This outlines the use of acupuncture and other integrative health modalities throughout the Veterans Health Administration, specifically focusing on the occupational classification requiring VHA-employed acupuncturists to hold NCCAOM certification. The VHA standard can serve as an important model to federal and state bodies looking to determine appropriate clinician requirements as acupuncture continues to be recognized as an essential health care service.