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Seattle Acupuncture: Occupy Healthcare – Community Acupuncture Helping the 99%

A colleague on the East Coast, Nicole Maniez, wrote this article which well explains how community acupuncture is helping the Occupy movement by offering health care that is affordable and accessible to the 99% – those people who are without insurance or well-paying jobs.

Occupy Healthcare: The Revolution is Here & it’s Called Community Acupuncture

by Nicole Maniez, acupunctuist, herbalist, yoga instructor, and childbirth educator in Boston, MA

Photo: Marnie Joyce

As an acupuncturist, there is a freedom in this model, a strong sense of support and community, and a knowledge that we are helping people across economic and class barriers.

The other day I was invited to give an acupuncture presentation to a group of medical doctors. As an acupuncturist, this is exciting. The possibility of collaboration begins to sprout and I get to share the gentle medicine I love with a group of professionals who are open to learning about various ways of approaching health concerns.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine are effective for so many health issues, from headaches and digestive concerns to anxiety and fertility. This modality of healing almost never has side effects, doesn’t pollute the earth or add pharmaceuticals to our drinking water, costs less, is not invasive, doesn’t create addictions and is a great first line of treatment for many issues.

After the presentation, one of the MD’s started talking about our very broken healthcare system. He said his practice used to be an out-of-pocket system. Costs were low. When he started accepting health insurance, the cost for a simple ear exam skyrocketed. He used the word criminal many times.

If I think about the numerous stories patients have shared with me, many ugly words beyond criminal come up. People pay unbelievable amounts of money to have their families insured. When they actually need the insurance, say their spouse is diagnosed with cancer, they need to fight the insurance company for payment. It’s hard to fight any company.

Think about the last time your tried to get an extra charge taken off your phone bill. Now add illness, fear, mental health issues, and heartache to the picture and let’s see how many individuals win.


F*ing criminal–kind of like how many feel about huge bonuses within companies that received bailouts. Maybe worse. People’s lives are literally on the line.

We have a broken system. I don’t think anyone can argue this. But how do we change such a deeply ingrained system that is tied to health, hospitals, business, and big money? We are lucky to be within the times of Occupy. We have brilliant minds working towards change and people are empowered by our ability to physically occupy spaces. The physical occupation allows our minds and awareness to stay engaged with the need for change. Occupy is fertilizer for change on multiple levels.

How does Community Acupuncture (CA) come into this picture? The movement of CA began because licensed acupuncturists realized they could not afford the $70-100 treatments they were offering. Most community acupuncture clinics use a sliding fee scale of $15-$40 per treatment with no income verification required or requested. This means that within certain parameters, patients choose what they pay. Many patients who pay at the low end find creative, non-financial ways to support their community clinic by volunteering through outreach, marketing, publicity, or answering phones–enhancing their self-esteem as community activists rather than passive recipients of charity.

CA clinics treat multiple people in a group setting, allowing for a sustainable business with low costs to patients. CA works to integrate acupuncture into American healthcare by means of a grassroots movement rather than seeking to become accepted by the medical establishment or be paid for by insurance companies. There is no middleman. CA is acupuncturists running clinics with low overhead, offering effective healthcare that many people can actually afford.

As an acupuncturist, there is a freedom in this model, a strong sense of support and community, and a knowledge that we are helping people across economic and class barriers. The CA community, acupuncturists and patients, are generous, honest, and quite sure they are changing the world for the better.

Want to learn more about community acupuncture and find a clinic in your area? Check out

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