I surged with pride when I read last week that ear acupuncture for pain will now be covered for nearly 9.5 million additional people. This benefits active duty, retired military and their dependents as covered under TRICARE, which is part of the military’s health care system. The institute I ran for 15 years was a key player in doing the research and training evaluations to make this happen.
This isn’t a unicorn. Other payers are covering non-drug solutions for pain like acupuncture, massage, yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy and others.
The opioid epidemic has given payers a renewed energy to search for non-drug solutions. Acupuncture has come to the forefront because it combats pain while avoiding narcotic side effects such as addiction, bowel problems, mental and emotional problems, drug misuse and death. See our fact sheet.
Payers play a large role in allowing practitioners to provide patients with more evidence-based options, thereby coming closer to delivering care that addresses the needs of a whole person. But we all play a part in improving the health of our nation. It is the public that largely drives the area of integrative health.
Patient demand keeps the spotlight on current deficits in care. Patients used acupuncture long before they became part of national guidelines or received coverage by health insurance like TRICARE. Researchers evaluate efficacy, dosing and safety. Providers continue to learn so that they may offer better treatments. And the list goes on with philanthropists, government agencies, community organizations, caregivers and many others involved in the web of health and wellbeing.
It took 15 years from our first study on Battlefield Acupuncture to coverage of acupuncture. That is a long time. We need to move this process along faster.
I’m proud to have played my part in making an effective, non-drug solution available to millions, and I am grateful to the Samueli Foundation and the U.S. Military for supporting the research and programs that led to this positive outcome. Now onto coverage of this and other integrative health approaches for the entire country. Our health care system and the public need that more than ever.
Note: Learn more about ear acupuncture here.