June 15, 2020
By Mark Flatten

Julie Baron knows about the paperwork and delays involved in getting licensed as an acupuncturist in Arizona.

She’s done it twice. The first time was in 2015, under the standard licensing process.
She did it again in 2019, shortly after a new law went into effect that is supposed to streamline the licensing procedures for professionals already licensed in other states.

The new approach works better, she said. It cut down substantially on the amount of paperwork she had to file. Time-wise, it may have made a difference. But probably not much.

“It was a much easier process,” Baron said of the universal licensing law that took effect in August. “I have experience with both.

“It’s a little bit less paperwork for the practitioner to have to go through. You just submit your current license from another state and a couple of other documents. But it’s not as intensive of a process. You don’t have to submit as many documents as a practitioner, so therefore you save a little bit of time and it’s a little bit more succinct. I don’t know exactly that it was faster, to be honest.”

Baron went through the standard licensing process when she became an acupuncturist in Arizona in 2015. She moved to Washington state after getting a better job offer, and was licensed as an acupuncturist there. Then in 2019, an even better job offer came from an acupuncture and wellness center in Tucson, so she moved back.

Baron said she’d heard about the new law from family members, who told her it seemed perfect for someone in her situation. After checking with the state Acupuncture Board of Examiners, she was told that getting her license under the universal recognition law would be her best option.

The law, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in April 2019, basically says a person licensed in another state for at least a year without any disciplinary problems qualifies for an equivalent license in Arizona. Its intent is to allow people to go to work in their chosen trades more quickly and with minimal bureaucratic delay. The theory behind it is if someone is licensed and successfully practicing in another state, they should be qualified to practice the same profession in Arizona.

That is particularly true for fields like acupuncture, in which practitioners insert needles to treat a variety of conditions, such as pain. Acupuncturists nationwide take the same standardized tests administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. And while there are nuances, the standards of practice do not vary much from state to state. So it makes sense that an acupuncturist licensed in one state should qualify for a license in another, Baron said.

“You have the national certification,” she said. “It makes sense that every state would recognize that degree. It’s still the same ethical standards and same scope of practice. It’s actually a little bit broader in Washington state than in Arizona, but the baseline is the same. And that’s really what you’re looking at from state to state. If the baseline is the same, then licenses from other states should be recognized.”

Licensing mobility is especially important for acupuncturists like Baron, she said. Because of the nature of the profession, not a lot of places hire acupuncturists as employees, so many end up opening their own practice. When a better job does become available in another state, it’s important that practitioners be able to relocate and get their licenses quickly.

It didn’t necessarily turn out that way for Baron. From start to finish, it took about two months for her to get her license even under the universal recognition law. She gives the acupuncture board a pass on the delay because she was one of the first to apply after the new law took effect, and the board was likely dealing with implementing their procedures while the number of applications surged.

“I do believe it will be faster in the future,” Baron said. “That’s one of the reasons why they instituted the universal licensing law was so that people could get to practicing in a faster way. It just wasn’t my personal experience, but I was one of the first, so we’ll give them a little bit of leeway there.”

Click here to read more of the story in 1,000+ Arizonans Get Freedom to Work under State’s New Universal Recognition Law.

Mark Flatten is the National Investigative Journalist at the Goldwater Institute.

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