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I am writing in response to the Dec. 10 article "Local HMOs bring alternative therapies into the mainstream." It stated that Blue Cross and Blue Shield will offer discounts for acupuncture and other approved therapies.

Let's be clear. In this program as it is currently conceived, Blue Cross offers only a list of practitioners. It does not offer reimbursement to subscribers as part of the health-insurance premiums they pay. It is the practitioners who are being asked to offer discounts, not Blue Cross. This allows them to receive recognition for supporting alternative treatment, while placing all financial burden solely on practitioners.

I am a nationally certified and New York State licensed acupuncturist. The recent invitation to be recognized as a provider and offer 25 percent discounts is not a viable option for me. I have already made my fees as low as possible.

I appreciate that Blue Cross "wanted to make it easier for our customers to compliment traditional medicine with alternative medicine," but the way to do so is to provide members with full reimbursement for the services of licensed acupuncturists. In fact, this would be to their advantage, because many people who come for acupuncture are able to avoid expensive surgical procedures, potentially saving the HMO a great deal of money.


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