Acupuncturists Want Coverage Under ObamaCare

Should the president’s ill-fated health care reform survive scrutiny at the U.S. Supreme Court, acupuncturists and practitioners of “oriental medicine” are attempting to convince the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to classify acupuncture as an “essential health benefit” (EHB) under ObamaCare.

The Heritage Foundation’s blog, known as The Foundry, is reporting that the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), a trade group that represents acupuncturists and practitioners of other forms of oriental medicine, have established a task force to pressure the HHS into listing them as an EHB.

“Acupuncture fits all of the criteria for an eligible EHB service,” claims a position paper drafted by the AAAOM, “and has demonstrated meaningful improvement in outcomes over current effective services and treatments for conditions in at least five [of] the [10] often general categories of health care outlined by HHS and IOM.”

Meanwhile, opponents are lining up to prevent the move. The Center for Inquiry, which describes itself as “a national nonprofit organization that advocates for public policy based on science through research, publishing, lobbying, and community outreach,” sent a letter to Sebelius urging her to reject AAAOM’s request.

According to the Institute of Medicine, for a service to be eligible as an EHB, it must: (1) be safe, (2) be medically effective, (3) demonstrate meaningful improvement, (4) be a medical service, and (5) be cost effective.

“Acupuncture meets none of these five criteria. Proponents of acupuncture repeatedly claim that acupuncture is a safe, efficacious, and cost effective complement to conventional medicine. However, such claims are unjustified, and rely on dubious and discredited research. In fact, an increasingly robust body of empirical evidence has shown that acupuncture is unproven, unscientific, and has no clinical value beyond a placebo effect. Medical interventions that perform no better than placebos should not be funded by the government. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve drugs as ‘safe and effective’ when they perform no better than placebos. Similarly, HHS should not classify a procedure as an EHB when it provides no benefits beyond what could be expected from a placebo.

Thus far, the HHS has not responded to the AAAOM’s request.

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