Acupuncturists and those considering careers in acupuncture have reason to celebrate this week. A new code proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will signify legitimacy of the profession and could mean an increase in jobs, insurance reimbursement, and pay rates for acupuncturists. On July 22nd, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics proposed the reclassification of acupuncture from “a new and emerging Profession,” to a unique, defined occupation with its own code. The proposed code is in the category of “Diagnosing and Treating Healthcare Practitioners”, which is the same category in which physicians and surgeons are classified.
“This is a great day for acupuncturists, acupuncture students, and those considering acupuncture careers,” commented Jack Miller, President of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, the largest college of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the U.S., with campuses in New York, Chicago, and San Diego. “We have already seen impressive growth in the use of acupuncture among the population and an increase in jobs for licensed acupuncturists over the past decade, but having a standard occupational classification will further legitimize acupuncture as a healthcare option and allow federally managed entities like the Veterans Administration to hire acupuncturists more easily and pay them according to standards for diagnosing and treating healthcare practitioners, rather than healthcare technicians. This will mean that our graduates and other acupuncturists will be more integrated than ever before into the existing healthcare system, offering more natural options for a wide variety of conditions.”
Acupuncture became popular in the U.S. in the 1970s, after President Nixon’s trip to China, during which James Reston, a New York Times columnist accompanying the President, suffered an attack of acute appendicitis. During Reston’s recuperation, his pain was successfully treated with acupuncture, and his reports on its effectiveness played a major role in the introduction of Chinese medicine to the American public.
Today, there are about 30,000 licensed acupuncturists giving half a million treatments each year in the U.S., with acupuncture regulated in 45 states. The level of training for acupuncturists has increased as the profession has grown. While most states accept a master’s level of training for licensure, more and more acupuncturists are choosing to obtain doctoral degrees in acupuncture, which are offered by Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. PCOM is one of under a dozen American institutions accredited to offer doctoral degrees in acupuncture.
Leaders in the acupuncture profession, including the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), have been working on the reclassification of acupuncture since the last Bureau of Labor list of Standard Occupational Classifications was published in 2010. The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is used by federal agencies to classify workers for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. All workers are classified into one of 840 detailed occupations according to definitions that are revised approximately every ten years. The proposed revision of the SOC for 2018, published on July 22, 2016, is now available for public comment.