As the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and its members embark on a new year, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at the top ACA news stories of 2018. From beginning to end, it was an eventful year that brought not only significant internal growth and change to the association but also important progress and achievements for several of ACA’s top legislative priorities. Following is a chronological review of the year’s top 10:
1. In January 2018, President Trump signed into law the ACA-supported “Jobs for Our Heroes Act.” The law includes a provision allowing chiropractors working within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to perform physical exams on veterans needing a medical certificate to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
2. In February 2018, ACA was successful in getting “The Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act” (H.R. 4973) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill called for expanding access to chiropractic to military retirees, dependents and survivors through the U.S. Department of Defense TRICARE program. Later in the year, the Senate introduced a companion bill that focused on expanding chiropractic to military retirees as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves. (Editor’s note: In January 2019, the U.S. House and Senate united to introduce bipartisan legislation to expand access to chiropractic services for military retirees and members of the National Guard and Reserves through TRICARE.)
3. In March 2018, during NCLC, ACA implemented historic changes to its governance model intended to position the association for the future and engage a new generation of leaders. Among the changes, the composition of the Board of Governors was changed to include five members of the association and one member of the public. A new volunteer clearinghouse was also created to gather information on volunteers’ talents, skills and interests and help place them on key ACA committees, advisory boards and in other roles where their expertise can best be utilized.
4. In March 2018, President Trump signed into law an ACA-championed plan to expand access to chiropractic to American veterans. The approved language calls for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expand the availability of chiropractic services at no fewer than two medical centers or clinics in each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) by no later than Dec. 31, 2019, and at no fewer than 50 percent of all medical centers in each VISN by no later than Dec. 31, 2021. The new law also codifies chiropractic services in the VA to include services provided by chiropractors under not only “Rehabilitative Services” but also the “Preventive Health Services” and “Medical” categories—which were previously closed to the profession.
5. In July 2018, ACA rallied chiropractic organizations from across the country to opposes a new policy by UnitedHealthcare (UHC) that denied reimbursement for spinal manipulative therapy for the treatment of headache. ACA drafted a letter to the UHC President and CEO that eventually included the names of leaders from 41 national, state and regional chiropractic associations. UHC soon announced that it would revert back to its original policy and continue to reimburse spinal manipulation for headache.
6. In August, ACA launched a new online learning platform to make it easier for chiropractors to access top-quality online education and earn their required continuing education units (CEUs). Learn ACA features a robust course catalog of education programs, presented by some of the profession’s most knowledgeable subject matter experts and respected thought leaders.
7. In October 2018, President Trump signed into law ACA-supported legislation that protects chiropractors who travel with sports teams by ensuring that their license and liability insurance remains in effect even when they cross state lines. Thanks to ACA, the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2018 was included in a larger, unrelated piece of legislation (H.R. 302) that passed the Senate overwhelmingly. As the bill was being drafted, ACA lobbyists and volunteers worked closely with chief House sponsor Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to ensure that chiropractors would be included in the bill’s final language.
8. In November 2018, ACA-championed legislation to increase Medicare coverage of services provided by chiropractors within the scope of their license was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since chiropractic was first made available in Medicare in 1972, beneficiaries have been covered for only one chiropractic service—manual manipulation of the spine—forcing them to access additional care from other types of providers or to pay out of pocket for the services from their chiropractor. The bill (H.R. 7157) would increase Medicare coverage of the chiropractic profession’s broad-based, non-drug approach to pain management, making access easier for many seniors. In related news, ACA drafted an open letter to Congress, urging federal elected officials to support increased access to chiropractic services in Medicare. To date, 50 groups have signed the letter to show their support of this important campaign on behalf of America’s seniors.
9. ACA published a statement on diversity in December 2018 that acknowledges the importance that cultural competency plays in the chiropractic profession’s ability to deliver quality health care, improve patient outcomes and engage in public health initiatives. ACA defines cultural agility as having enhanced skills and knowledge of the needs of a multicultural society and requiring a commitment to inclusion that begins with broader concepts of diversity.
10. In December 2018, ACA announced plans to change the name of its annual meeting, the National Chiropractic Leadership Conference (NCLC), to “ACA Engage” beginning in 2020. The new name is part of the association’s ongoing efforts to position members for success by bringing them cutting-edge education, networking and leadership-development opportunities, as well as the chance to lobby Congress on behalf of their patients and the profession.