Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), also known as integrative therapies, has gained enormous popularity in the United States. Despite high consumer demand, most of these treatments are not covered by private or public health insurance plans. This creates disparity in care along economic lines for acupuncturists, current acupuncture consumers, and prospective consumers who cannot afford to pay for acupuncture out-of-pocket. While the lack of insurance coverage for integrative therapies is a national issue, it makes the most sense to initiate change at the state level since states have historically served as safe and fertile grounds to experiment with incremental changes in health policy.
This policy brief focuses on ways to expand private health insurance coverage of acupuncture in Massachusetts, a state that has historically been a leader in health reform. We choose acupuncture because it is a popular type of CAM and is already covered by many insurance companies across the nation. There is also extensive evidence that acupuncture is safe and effective, and can save insurers money in the long term, especially for patients with chronic disease. We explore different options for coverage using a recent bill as a starting point for discussion and making certain that all stakeholders are involved in the outcome. Our recommendations are directed to the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Society of Massachusetts (AOMSM), the professional association for acupuncturists in the Commonwealth.