Legislative News



New Opiate Bill Gets The Point: Vermonters Want Acupuncture

June 28, 2016 Montpelier, VT

People For Acupuncture, Inc.


The Senate Health and Welfare Committee, along with the House Human Services Committee, took first steps to test acupuncture as a viable alternative to opiates for long-term pain management, this past legislative session, with the development of a pilot program for Medicaid patients suffering from chronic pain. 


Should acupuncture meet expectations as an alternative to opiates, it is assumed members of the Vermont legislature will attempt to move towards a mandate of health insurance coverage of the treatment for certain conditions, and become the 12th state in the nation to do so.


The Opiate Bill, S.243, which was signed by Governor Shumlin on June 10, appropriates $200,000 to pay for implementation of the pilot project.


Worldwide, acupuncture is used for pain management because while proven effective for several conditions, it is non-addictive, and has little to no side effects. Acupuncture is also used to alleviate opiate withdrawal symptoms in recovery centers, hospitals and jails around the globe.


The pilot program is under development and likely to begin within the next year. The new law requires the Department of Vermont Health Access to offer acupuncture to a cohort of Medicaid-eligible patients with a diagnosis of chronic pain, assessing the benefits in returning patients to social, occupational, and psychological function. An implementation plan is due to the legislature on or before January 15, 2017.


The issue of mandated insurance coverage for acupuncture treatment for certain conditions was first brought to the committees when People For Acupuncture, Inc, a newly-formed nonprofit made up of licensed acupuncturists and patients of acupuncture care, introduced a bill for mandated health insurance coverage for acupuncture at the beginning of the legislative session in January.


Conditions for which the group sought insurance coverage include:  pain management, drug and alcohol addiction, anxiety and nausea.  According to the group, these specific conditions have evidence-based studies that show that acupuncture is effective in treating them.


The original bill brought by People for Acupuncture was sponsored by Rep. Chris Pearson. While developing the bill, committees received testimony by Dr. Stephen Leffler of University of Vermont Medical Center, Dawn Philibert of the Department of Health, and the Vermont Acupuncture Association. 


According to House Representative Chris Pearson, “This bill is a step in the right direction. We must do everything we can to curb the opiate crisis. Offering Vermonters choices for alternative treatments is a good idea and should help us prevent people from getting addicted in the first place.”


Despite the abundance of studies showing the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain management, patients and providers report a barrier to care due to the lack of coverage of the treatment by most health insurance plans.



In Vermont, select plans such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Vermont State Employees and employees of University of Vermont Medical Center, do include it.  Plans offered on Vermont Health Connect do not offer acupuncture coverage at this time.


In addition to the pilot program and required studies, the committees also created the Controlled Substances and Pain Management Advisory Council and included representation of licensed acupuncturists.


For more information and to support the efforts of People For Acupuncture Inc, see www.peopleforacupuncture.org. 


Find a qualified and licensed acupuncturist in Vermont, at the Vermont Acupuncture Association’s website www.vtaa.org

Contact: Kerry Jenni M.S., L.Ac.    802-223-0954    kerry@integrativeaom.com

People for Acupuncture has announced that Representative Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, has proposed a bill that would require health insurance companies to reimburse acupuncturists who treat patients for certain conditions. Under Pearson's proposal, if your insurance covers medically necessary treatment for pain management, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or nausea by a doctor, an acupuncturist would also be covered.

The Burlington Free Press discussed the bill in an article on January 15, 2016: 



People For Acupuncture is a non-profit advocating in the Vermont legislature for healthcare insurance equality: 



Here is copy of the bill that Rep. Pearson introduced:



2016 Page 1 of 3

VT LEG #312512 v.1

1 H.573

2 Introduced by Representatives Pearson of Burlington and Grad of Moretown

3 Referred to Committee on

4 Date:

5 Subject: Health; health insurance; acupuncture

6 Statement of purpose of bill as introduced: This bill proposes to require

7 insurance coverage for certain medically necessary health care services when

8 delivered by a licensed acupuncturist.

9 An act relating to insurance coverage for medically necessary services

10 delivered by acupuncturists

11 It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

12 Sec. 1. 8 V.S.A. § 4088k is added to read:



15 (a) To the extent a health insurance plan provides coverage for medically

16 necessary diagnosis and treatment related to pain management, anxiety and

17 post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, and nausea, an

18 acupuncturist licensed pursuant to 26 V.S.A. chapter 75 who acts within his or

19 her authorized scope of practice shall not be denied reimbursement by the


2016 Page 2 of 3

VT LEG #312512 v.1

health insurer for pr 1 oviding those covered services if the health insurer would

2 reimburse another health care provider for providing the services.

3 (b) A health insurer may require that the services be provided by a licensed

4 acupuncturist under contract with the insurer. Services provided by an

5 acupuncturist may be subject to reasonable deductibles, co-payment and

6 coinsurance amounts, fee or benefit limits, practice parameters, and utilization

7 review consistent with applicable rules adopted by the Department of Financial

8 Regulation; provided that the amounts, limits, and review shall not function to

9 direct treatment in a manner that unfairly discriminates against acupuncture

10 care, and collectively shall be no more restrictive than those applicable under

11 the same policy for care or services provided by other health care providers but

12 allowing for the management of the benefit consistent with variations in

13 practice patterns and treatment modalities among different types of health care

14 providers.

15 (c) As used in this section:

16 (1) “Health insurance plan” means an individual or group health

17 insurance policy, a hospital or medical service corporation or health

18 maintenance organization subscriber contract, or another health benefit plan

19 offered, issued, or renewed for a person in this State by a health insurer. The

20 term does not include benefit plans providing coverage for a specific disease or

21 other limited benefit coverage.


2016 Page 3 of 3

VT LEG #312512 v.1


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