Dry Needling – The Unlicensed and Unregulated Practice of Acupuncture in Massachusetts
Legislative Sessions 2021 and 2022
The ASM continues to help push two important bills through the house and senate. The bills are critical to the acupuncture profession, for both practitioners and patients. One is related to the issue of dry needling and the other is an acupuncture/insurance bill which can be found on the Acupuncture Insurance Legislation tab to the right.
Current Bills Related to Dry Needling
What It Is: An Act Relative to Safer Treatment for Pain S1402 and An Act Relative to Dry Needling H2273 (the same bills with different names).
What It Does: Ensures patients receive the best qualified care by codifying into law specific and clear didactic and clinical criteria for practice of dry needling for any provider who is not a licensed acupuncturist, MD or DO in the Commonwealth.
Please Participate: At various times we ask for your help to contact the specific Joint Committee heads that are reviewing and making recommendations on whether or not these bills are passed. We simply ask that you email or call the individuals that are reviewing these bills and we provide all the instructions. Instructions for Legislation Relative to Dry Needling (older PDF download)
S1402 text. Latest Action: 3/24/22 – Bill S1402 was reported favorably out of Committee and has moved on to the Health Care Financing Committee.
H2273 text Latest Action: Reporting date extended to Wednesday June 1, 2022, pending concurrence
Older Dry Needling Legislative Data
Bills introduced in the 190th session Beginning 1/17/2017 and ending 12/18/2017
- H3247 An Act relative to the safe treatment of pain submitted by Presenter Representative John Lawn. Petitioners Solomon Goldstein-Rose, Peter V. Kocot, & John W. Scibak
- S1182 An Act relative to the safe treatment of pain submitted by Presenter Senator Julian Cyr. Petitioners Sarah K. Peake & John W. Scibak
Older Update From the ASM Dry Needling Task Force
Why the Bill “An Act Relative to the Safe Treatment of Pain” matters:
An act relative to Dry Needling will codify into law specific, legal standards for the practice of dry needling/Trigger Point Acupuncture for any provider who is not a licensed acupuncturist, MD or DO in the Commonwealth.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “dry needling” is neither in, nor out of, the scope of practice for allied health professionals. There are no rules preventing them from performing dry needling and also no rule giving them permission to do so. Due to the lack of clear rules, some physical therapists are practicing acupuncture under the pseudonym dry needling, bypassing the requirements licensed acupuncturists are required to meet.
This document from the American Society of Acupuncturists provides clear information about dry needling and why it is essential to support appropriate, rigorous education and licensing for anyone who wishes to practice acupuncture — including biomedical or integrative acupuncture currently referred to as “dry needling”.
The statement was approved by the representatives to American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA), which represents the profession on a national level.
The same sentiment is echoed by the American Medical Association (AMA) ) position statement on dry needling.
The ASM has submitted a petition to of the Board of Allied Health (BOAH) asking them to rule dry needling out of the scope of practice for physical therapists. We have received confirmation of receipt and are awaiting for a response through the lawyers.
This process accrues expenses and fees for lawyers and our lobbyist and more. Please donate what you can, any amount supports our efforts.
The BOAH has since chosen not to hear our petition. This is of concern as the charge of that Board is consumer protection and by not hearing our petition, it gives the appearance of not protecting consumer interests. It allows PTs to continue practicing acupuncture under the pseudonym dry needling in the Commonwealth.
The Committee on Acupuncture is updating scope of practice regulations regarding the definition of acupuncture and scope of practice. These changes will give acupuncturists and the ASM stronger footing to proceed with dry needling legislation. Many of you wrote comments to the COA. Licensed Acupuncturists Steve Cina, Amy Mager and Linda Robinson Hidas gave testimony at the Board of Registration in Medicine pursuant to this effort. We will update you as we hear after the next Committee on Acupuncture meeting.
We continue to address this issue in a multi-pronged way because people are using an invasive procedure, that is licensed in MA, without appropriate evaluation, examination and licensure to do so.
When you have patients willing to either 1. Tell their story of injury or harm from under trained practitioners practicing acupuncture under the pseudonym dry needling or 2. Are willing to have you share their story please email it to me at the email below.
If you have any questions or want to be involved in making sure everyone in MA who uses a metal/dry/filiform needle for therapeutic purpose is licensed, please contact:
Amy Mager MS, Lic.Ac. Dipl. OM (NCCAOM), Chair of the ASM Dry Needling Committee
ASA, American Society of Acupuncturists Dry Needling Committee Member
413.222.8616 or Amy@WellnessHouseNorthampton.com
Legislative Sessions 2022
The ASM continues to help push two important bills through the house and senate. The bills are critical to the acupuncture profession, for practitioners and patients. One is the acupuncture/insurance bill below and the other can be found Committees – Dry Needling
Current Acupuncture/Insurance Bill
What It Is: An Act Relative to the Practice of Acupuncture HD1179 & S1458 (has both house and senate versions)
What It Does:
- Mandates insurance coverage for acupuncture in MA for the treatment of pain, nausea, PTSD, and to treat opioid addiction
- Establishes a commission on acupuncture and wellness within the public health department
- Covers state employees (about 200,000 people)
Please Participate: We sent out periodic emails with instructions and timelines for taking action. We ask that you contact committee heads that are reviewing and making recommendations on whether or not these bills are passed. If you are not a member and wish to be on the list, please email admin@AcuSocietyMA.org.
Dan Delaney our lobbyist at ddelaney@delaneypolicygroup.
Naomi Alson, ASM Legislative Task Force at email@example.com
Amy Mager, ASM Legislative Task Force at firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the ASM at the Statehouse
Related research findings
- Acupuncture Fact Sheet
- Mandated Benefit Review of Bill 3972: An Act Relative to the Practice of Acupuncture – Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), April 2015 http://www.chiamass.gov/assets/Uploads/MBR-H3972-Acupuncture.pdf
- Acupuncture for chronic pain: an update and critical overview Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology published ahead of print July 2017.
- Summary of Research on Insurance Coverage of Acupuncture and Complementary Medicine from Washington state and NY – Carol Krieger, RN, BSN, Lic.Ac., MAOM
- Evaluating the Cost Effectiveness and ROI of Acupuncture – Deborah Farley, L.Ac., CHHC
- Florida Medicare Study: Cost Savings with Acupuncture for Chronic Pain – Health Management Associates
MassHealth Regulations for Acupuncturists
Some History of the Work the ASM Has Been Doing
As of January 2014, regulations went into place which allow acupuncture visits to be covered for those individuals enrolled in the state’s MassHealth program.
Under the regulations acupuncture can be provided in three locations: acute care settings, community centers and physician offices. Most often patients cannot make use of these services due to the regulation stating that acupuncturists need physician referral, supervision and billing. Acupuncturists have never been supervised in this way. MassHealth did not permit acupuncturists to enroll as providers, but instead only reimbursed them through a supervising MD.
As an organization we understand that the overwhelming majority of acupuncturists are independent practitioners and are not employed by MD’s, clinics or acute care outpatient hospitals.
The ASM reviewed the statute with an attorney and went to work making phone calls, sending letters, and providing testimony to legislative committees. The goal is to change some of these regulations so that they are better suited to acupuncturists, their practices, and ultimately their patients, including working with MassHealth to ensure that payments to acupuncturists are uniformly fair and appropriate to our work.
When this statute was reopened the department reached out to the ASM and we have participated in meetings over the last few years voicing important issues and needed changes.
A few of our recommendations included the need to cover evaluation and management (E&M) and to make that payable on the same date as acupuncture services.
We felt triumphant in November 2021 when we learned that MassHealth would soon allow “acupuncturist” as a new provider type starting on Jan 22, 2022.
Watch for updates via our eNewsletters and our news blog
Below are the three pieces of regulations in both the full version as well as just the sections that are pertinent to acupuncturists.