The Guild benefits from being a member of the OPEIU which is, in turn, a member of the AFL-CIO. What exactly is that benefit? Guild members are often familiar with the legislative process that governs health professions. Our knowledge can help win important decisions. Here are two recent cases in point. Here are the facts.
CASE #1: Fall and Winter 2014/15. The Connecticut Guild chapter has been working for nearly a year to have acupuncture included under the state Workers Compensation law. Including acupuncture as an approved treatment would provide a new opportunity for licensed acupuncturists to earn income available to chiropractors and physical therapists but not to acupuncturists. What does it take to get this done? Guild President, Steve Paine, lives in the “Constitution” state. Steve has worked tirelessly to align the Guild with the state acupuncture organization which was less than enthusiastic to collaborate on any project with him. We all know how that works. Steve turned to our labor brothers and sisters who helped him meet with key legislative, insurance and regulatory figures. In the midst of a colossal New England Winter that has shut down major cities the Guild has gotten acupuncture included as a recognized treatment in the Workers Comp schedule. His next goal? Getting acupuncturists listed alongside chiropractors and physical therapists as recognized providers. The state association may not wish to work with the Guild. Thank goodness we have other friends.
CASE #2: Summer and Fall 2014. The Guild has fought for more than five years to loosen the grip of acupuncture schools on the California Acupuncture Board (CAB). Under the stewardship of Board Chairs that worked at some of the largest and most notorious acupuncture training programs in California, and an executive officer who offered zero guidance regarding the board’s mission – protect the public and ensure schools comply with California code – the CAB had expanded the number of CAB schools by 30%. Graduates of schools on the CAB approved schools list may apply to take the California Acupuncture Licensing Exam (CALE).
Guild researchers documented that the CAB never reviewed the schools once they were on the list. One school testified to the CAB that their graduates were going to work as missionaries once graduated. The school won approval. To the Guild observers, Hugh Morison and Steve Stumpf, it seemed the CAB would approve any school; as though they were thinking to disapprove one school would lead to tougher scrutiny of all the schools on the list. The Guild researchers provided a key Senate committee with their evidence of the CAB shenanigans. That committee took the CAB to task. The executive officer resigned and a new group of board members with a stronger commitment to transparency and enforcement was appointed. Then things got weird.
The same Senate committee decided it wanted to strip the new CAB of all school approval authority just as the new CAB began to let the schools know things were going to be different in California. One new school that applied to be on the approved list was denied when it refused to come into compliance with California regulations. This was so upsetting to the other schools they complained that there would be no schools able to meet these new standards. The Chair informed them the standards were not new. The Senate Committee drafted and passed a bill – Senate Bill 1246 – that was signed into law in 2014. The bill stripped the CAB of its school approval authority. Defeat? Not really.
The Guild was able to work with other acupuncture organizations, i.e., CAOMA, to lobby the Governor and the Department of Consumer Affairs which has oversight over all 42 California regulatory boards including the CAB. The bill was suspended from activation until 2017. The Guild and its partners have organized a larger coalition in 2015. This coalition has its own bill – AB 758 – in the current legislative session that returns school approval authority to the CAB. And this time, working in advance, the Guild has support from OPEIU and the AFL-CIO. That is union brotherhood and sisterhood in action. The threshold for acupuncture schools has been raised. The Guild and organized labor are leading the way.
CASE #3: Fall 2014. “Defendants are hereby enjoined from inserting acupuncture needles or any other needles for the purpose of dry needling in the State of Washington.” This was the finding from an October 10, 2014 hearing in which the plaintiffs – South Sound Acupuncture Association (SSAA), won their case against Kinetacore, A Colorado company that taught dry needling to physical therapists in a Washington PT practice group – Emerald Bay Physical Therapy. Daniel Dingle, the owner of SSAA, and his attorney Brent Foster turned to Guild Founding member Ted Priebe, among others, to provide testimony that dry needling is actually acupuncture. Ted, who is a Workers Compensation expert, is very familiar with how treatment and providers are distinguished under the Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule. He directed the rationale for including acupuncturists as distinct providers in California Work Comp law. He had no difficulty applying the same principles to the Washington case.
The judge was persuaded. Victory for SSAA, all Washington acupuncturists, and the Guild.
Those are the facts.
By Steven H. Stumpf, EdD