It is with a degree of sadness that I open this month's column by reporting on the passing of a recent graduate and contributor to Acupuncture Today, Marc O'Regan. Marc was a longtime resident of Santa Barbara, California, where he was a paramedic and physician assistant before attending Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine; he graduated in 2003.
After graduation, he spent much of his time working with relief efforts around the world. He worked with the victims of Hurricane Katrina and participated in Operation Heartbeat, which provided aid to the victims of last year's earthquake in Pakistan. In fact, he authored an article on Operation Heartbeat which was the lead story in last month's issue of Acupuncture Today. We will all miss Marc's big heart, his willing spirit, and the love he spread to all with whom he came in contact. Thanks, Marc, for sharing your life and love with the acupuncture profession.
And now for this month's column. Several months ago, I received a call from a woman who introduced herself as a representative of the American Hospital Association and invited me to attend the AHA's conference in San Diego. She explained that the conference is designed to bring hospital administrators, medical clinic directors and human resource directors along with other health care professionals and officials to discuss and learn about success stories, trends and other information in the American hospital system.
Not knowing exactly what to expect, I drove to San Diego to be one of the first registrants at the conference. I brought giveaway items and business cards. As more people arrived, I slowly began to view this experience as something of a job fair for acupuncturists. I say "job fair" because it seemed that everyone with whom I spoke indicated that they were interested in looking for acupuncturists to join their facilities.
I talked to hospital administrators and CEOs from across the country, some as far away as New York, and learned about all sorts of developments taking place in the hospital field. For example, one of the largest and most prestigious hospitals here in Orange County recently announced that it is going to build a "sister" facility to its already-existing oncology department. The new facility will be staffed completely by acupuncturists.
Some great question-and-answer sessions developed as I met and spoke with various attendees, with more people asking me questions than me asking them. There were seven general questions I seemed to get asked most often:
How do we find an acupuncturist?
What are their credentials?
How much education does an acupuncturist have?
How do they get paid?
How much should they get paid?
Does insurance reimburse for an acupuncturist's treatments?
Does Medicare cover their treatments?
When I asked about why these hospitals were adding acupuncturists, most of the responses centered on the fact that the facilities were responding to the wants and needs of their patients. This certainly is borne out by the fact that we know that acupuncture and Oriental medicine is consumer-driven, and that the public is looking to use this modality.
After leaving the event, I felt like I was on cloud nine. I have always said to my classes that now is the best time to be an acupuncturist. I know this conference reaffirmed that thought in my mind, and so I am passing it on to you.
Before signing off, I'd like to commend Connie Taylor, LAc, past president of the California State Oriental Medical Association, for giving me a heads-up on this next issue. I am sure you remember HIPAA. If you have forgotten it (or would like to forget it), it is time to discuss the area of compliance - in particular, the National Provider Identifier (NPI) system. The NPI is a 10-position numeric identifier, with a check digit in the last position to help detect keying errors. Every health care provider, whether an individual, a group or an organization, that provides medical or other health services or supplies, will be assigned an identification number. The NPI is a unique identification number that will be used by all health plans. It will be assigned to health care providers and used when you submit insurance claims or conduct other transactions specified by HIPAA. These identifiers will be used on superbills given to patients when they send them to their own insurance company.
A health care provider will be able to apply for an NPI between now and May 23, 2007. There are three ways of applying:
Mail: complete and send an application to NPI Enumerator, PO Box 6059, Fargo, ND 58108-6059
Telephone (by calling the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System's call center at 800-465-3203)
If you move to a new location, you have 30 days to notify the Office of the Enumerator of your new location. Because these numbers will be used in billing purposes and other transactions, the number should be kept private and secure.
Thanks, Connie. See you next month!
Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.