The hallowed halls of the Capitol may seem far removed from an acupuncturist’s parlor, but before Obamacare, getting a medical insurance policy that covered acupuncture was often a headache. This was odd, considering that the ancient treatment is increasingly used to treat everything from back pain to migraines.
How the Act Works
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is officially known, takes care of that paradox. It allows individual states to designate complementary and alternative medicines, the category under which the treatment is classified, as essential health services.
States that choose this route will not allow insurance companies to offer policies for sale in the Health Insurance Marketplace or other exchanges within their boundaries unless they cover a specific set of items and services that can now include acupuncture and associated services. Since states are also required to keep health records in a standard electronic format, there is the added benefit of reduced paperwork.
As of January 2014, California, Maryland, New Mexico and Washington had set up the necessary structures, and according to Acupuncture Today, are expecting an increased uptake of the treatment.
The Force, Without Yoda
According to traditional Chinese medicine, good health is the result of a proper balance in the flow of an energy known as qi, pronounced ‘chi’. It is channeled through pathways in the body known as meridians. There are 12 primary and 8 secondary meridians, which link about 2,000 specific parts of the body known as acupoints. From this viewpoint, ill health is the result of an imbalance in the flow of qi.
With the patient sitting or lying down, very fine needles are carefully pushed into several acupoints until the patient feels a mild ache or pressure. They are removed and inserted again, and the process repeated until treatment goals are achieved. Depending on the condition being treated, the needles may be heated or electrified with a mild current. For complete relief, several sessions may be needed. After treatment, most patients report feeling relaxed or energized.
Practitioners generally combine acupuncture with herbal medicine, meditation and exercise into a holistic treatment regime.
How Acupuncture Works
Scientists have not fully unraveled the puzzle that is acupuncture, but available evidence suggests that it causes the body to secrete chemicals that boost healing and bring feelings of well being. These chemicals include serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls mood and opioid peptides, chemicals that play a role in pain reduction. The treatment is also thought to stimulate natural electromagnetic points, causing the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.
The hallowed halls of Capitol have crafted a law that makes it possible for more Americans to enjoy the benefits of acupuncture without breaking the bank.