Mike Hashimoto, an architect of the state’s regulation of acupuncture, asked the state to intervene in a billing dispute last year despite his agreement to not treat patients.

In early 2022, Mike Hashimoto made a complaint to the state agency in charge of regulating insurance that Geico had shortchanged him for acupuncture treatment he provided to a woman who had been in an accident.

Geico demanded a hearing on the complaint, and eventually Hashimoto withdrew it.

What was remarkable about the case was that Hashimoto made the complaint involving his acupuncture practice to the same state department that three years earlier had ordered him to stop practicing acupuncture.

Acupuncturist Mike Hashimoto, who helped set up the board that regulates his profession, was himself accused by a patient of misconduct. (John Hill/Civil Beat/2019)

Hashimoto “may not engage in the practice of acupuncture other than for instructional purposes,” according to a settlement agreement he signed on March 28, 2019.

It’s unclear what, if anything, the state is doing about the apparent flouting of the agreement. Hashimoto’s online disciplinary history does not show any new actions since the 2019 action.

A new complaint was made against him in 2021, but it is still pending and the Regulated Industries Complaints Office does not comment on open investigations unless disciplinary action is taken. So the nature of that complaint is unknown.

When licensees violate the terms of orders such as a settlement agreement, RICO can petition the licensing board – in this case the Hawaii Board of Acupuncture – for immediate action, including automatically revoking the license, said William Nhieu, spokesman for the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the parent agency of both the Insurance Division and RICO.

But if the licensee disputes the finding of a violation, it can lead to a full-blown contested case, Nhieu said. 

In an email, Hashimoto did not directly address the question of why he was providing acupuncture treatment despite the settlement agreement. “The patient has been our regular patient since 2016, got involved in an auto accident in January 2021,” he wrote, while questioning why Civil Beat was looking into the matter.

“Maybe you might need to check your mental state,” he wrote.

The recent events are the latest twist in a long-running story of Hashimoto’s acupuncture practice and his influence over the regulation of the profession in Hawaii.

Almost 50 years ago, Hashimoto pushed for regulation of acupuncture in Hawaii, including a bill that would for the first time require state oversight.

Between the early 1980s and 2018, he served a total of 21 years on the acupuncture board, helping to shape the regulation of the industry and making decisions on individual cases. His office is adorned with photos of himself with several Hawaii governors, as well as diplomas and proclamations honoring him for his contributions. 

But in 2016, a patient alleged that Hashimoto had engaged in several inappropriate actions during an acupuncture session, including stroking her groin and touching her vagina. RICO’s investigation took three years, with Hashimoto continuing to serve on the board for part of that time, as detailed in a Civil Beat story in 2019.

Photos show acupuncturist Mike Hashimoto with Hawaii governors and other officials. (John Hill/Civil Beat/2019)

The settlement was signed in March 2019 and approved by the acupuncture board the following month, avoiding a full hearing on whether he engaged in gross carelessness and unprofessional conduct. Hashimoto did not admit to legal or rules violations, but conceded that there was sufficient cause for the state to seek discipline.

The agreement allowed him to retain his license, but only to provide clinical instruction to acupuncture students. He was required to shut down his Kapahulu business by June 4, 2019.

But in early 2022, Hashimoto filed a claim with Geico for “four sessions of acupuncture treatment,” according to a letter he later sent to a DCCA hearing officer.

According to the August letter, obtained from DCCA through the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act, Hashimoto’s Geico claim included progress notes with “One-On-One” contact hours, a discharge summary and a vehicle accident questionnaire.

But Geico sent the patient a letter, according to Hashimoto, saying it would pay no more than $75 per visit. He alleged Geico, based on national surveys, covered only 15 minutes of treatment per session.

“Acupuncture care requires careful evaluation, assessment, and treatment procedure, especially in accident case,” he wrote, “and not randomly piercing needles in and out in a short time.”

“It is not fair that Geico doesn’t abide by correct fee schedules and makes their fee schedule for practitioners an egregious act of discrimination.”

Below his signature, Hashimoto listed his acupuncture license number.

In November, after several delays, Hashimoto sent the state hearing officer an email asking to cancel a hearing scheduled for the following month. In his email to Civil Beat Thursday, Hashimoto said that in the end, Geico was “happy to pay me the total amount without going court process.”

It’s not the only evidence that Hashimoto has continued to practice. A Google review that purports to be from early 2022 gave Hashimoto five stars.  It included a photograph of the outside of Hashimoto’s clinic.

On his website, Hashimoto continues to proclaim his innocence in the case that began in 2016. 

Review of Mike Hashimoto acupuncture
An online review that purports to be from early 2022 gave Honolulu acupuncturist Mike Hashimoto five stars.

“It is hard to believe the patient created such a deceitful story,” he wrote.

He has repeatedly demanded that Civil Beat remove two articles about him from 2019, threatening legal action. On his website, he claims that a Civil Beat reporter pretended to be a RICO investigator to get him to talk about the case.

“It was surprising that they even impersonated state investigators and used cunning tactics to collect information,” he wrote.

From the beginning, Civil Beat explained to Hashimoto that it was a journalism outlet planning to write a story about his case. Hashimoto invited a reporter into his clinic, consented to an interview and allowed him to take photographs.

Hawaii has by far the highest concentration of acupuncturists in the U.S. But very few have ever been disciplined. In fact, Hashimoto’s settlement agreement in 2019 was the first action against an acupuncturist since 2010.

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