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May 24, 2005 > AB 233 - Is Acupuncture in danger?

AB 233 - Is Acupuncture in danger?

Rumors and emails have been circulating about SB 233, sponsored by Senator Liz Figueroa (District 10 - Fremont), Chair of the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. This bill, if passed, will eliminate the state's Acupuncture Board and, it is alleged, threaten the livelihood of most acupuncture practitioners by requiring referrals from medical doctors imposing significant fines and loss of license if referrals are absent.

The American Association of Oriental Medicine opposes the bill based on amendments that "would impact practitioner's ability to diagnose and treat patients." Acupuncture and Integrated Medicine Specialists (AIMS) also opposes the bill primarily due to the text of an amendment that includes:

(d) ..."Acupuncture" also includes the diagnosis of a person for the purpose of providing acupuncture treatment.

(e) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize an acupuncturist to diagnose any physical or mental disorder pursuant to Sections 2038 and 2052.

Although paragraph (d) appears to allow diagnosis for acupuncture treatment, it is claimed that paragraph (e) of the amendment provides "apparent restrictions on the diagnostic authority of Licensed Acupuncturists." The point of contention appears to be whether or not paragraphs (d) and (e) are in conflict. Section 2038 defines "diagnose" as the use of "any method, device or procedure whatsoever, and whether gratuitous or not, to ascertain or establish whether a person is suffering from any physical or mental disorder." Section 2052 establishes the penalties for those who practice "any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in this state....without being authorized to perform the act...."

The California Acupuncture Board issued a notice to Licensees, students, schools and professional associations regarding SB 233 in which they said, "Regardless of the outcome of SB 233 and whether or not the Board stays or becomes a Bureau, the laws and regulations as defined in the Acupuncture Licensure Act do not go away and are still in effect." Further, the notice explains that the process for a legislative bill to become law is a lengthy process of at least 4 to 5 months.

Existing law states that the Acupuncture Board will "sunset" on July 1, 2006. SB 233 appears to simply hasten the process. The Senate Bill Analysis comments:

"...the Board has missed significant opportunities to protect the public, particularly in the area of consumer information. One of the most significant examples of this is the Board's failure to promulgate regulations concerning single use needles. While the Board is now working on regulations on this issue, it seems they are only acting after repeated urging from the Commission [Little Hoover Commission] and the Joint Committee."


"...agendas did show a pattern of frequent discussions regarding enhanced title (Doctor of Oriental Medicine) and various means of restricting entry into the profession."

In order to understand the impetus and implications for SB 233, TCV asked Senator Figueroa for her comments:

Special interests are currently dominating the board. They are afraid that they will not be able to dominate it anymore. The fear of losing practices and fines is not based on the truth. This bill will "sunset" the Board and the reason is that over the last 6 years there has been a review process and this Board has continually ignored suggestions and recommendations. We gave them one more year and finally ran out of patience.

The Acupuncture Board has not been singled out; we have reviewed other boards including the Dental Board, Medical Board and Contractor's Board. There was a time when we closed the Board of Cosmetology and the profession still exists. The information currently being circulated by these special interest groups is untrue.

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