by Susan Bowlus, LAc and Kit Yoon, LAc
As acupuncture has become more integrated into mainstream healthcare, a growing number of doctors are referring patients for the complementary treatment, which is often available at traditional hospitals, too. Acupuncture is often used in sports medicine; in treatments for fertility, nausea and pain; and as an adjunct to addiction therapy. While acupuncture is now more widely available than ever, its cost can be a deterrent for many potential patients. Community acupuncture helps create a way for more people to affordably access this healing modality.
When acupuncture practices were introduced in the U.S. during the 1970s, the mainstream medical model guided the pricing of treatments and the environments in which they were performed. Today, fees for acupuncture treatments range from $50 to $200 per session, and the patient is treated in a private room. This design works well if the patient can afford to pay out of pocket or has insurance to cover the costs. Some major insurance companies are beginning to offer coverage—BlueCross BlueShield, for example, offers a discount program for acupuncture, and both Cigna and Aetna will cover treatments for certain health conditions such as chronic low back pain or migraine headaches. But patients that must pay out of pocket often find it difficult to continue acupuncture treatments, especially for chronic conditions that require a series of sessions for good results.
Born out of this dilemma was the concept of community acupuncture, a solution that offers more affordable acupuncture treatments using a sliding payment scale. The treatments are performed in a community space, with several patients receiving treatment simultaneously, and individuals pay whatever they can—typically between $15 and $40 per session. In a time of soaring healthcare costs, this model offers a reasonably priced solution.
While this is a newer model for acupuncturists in the U.S.—the nation’s first community acupuncture clinic opened in 2005, in Portland, Oregon—it is ubiquitous in China, where acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. There, an acupuncturist may see nearly 100 patients in four hours within a large clinic space, with several chairs placed next to each other. The patients pay around $2 a treatment and often come every day until their symptoms improve.
Today, community acupuncture is growing rapidly, with more than 200 clinics across the U.S. and abroad. As patients and practitioners seek more natural approaches to healthcare, they are turning to this ancient medicine to find healing and well-being.
Susan Bowlus and Kit Yoon are licensed acupuncturists at Urban Acupuncture Center, the first community acupuncture clinic in Ohio, which opened in September 2010. Part of an international network of acupuncture clinics, they employ seven acupuncturists and are open daily at 3389 N. High St., in Columbus. For more information, call 614-725-2488 or visit UrbanAcupunctureCenter.org.