Hawaii ordered an acupuncturist to stop practicing. Three years later, he was still

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

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

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

What was notable about the case was that Hashimoto filed the complaint regarding his acupuncture practice with the same state department that three years earlier had ordered him to stop practicing acupuncture.

Acupuncturist Mike Hashimoto, who helped establish the board that regulates his profession, has been accused of misconduct by a patient. (John Hill/Civil Beat/2019)

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

It is unclear what, if anything, the state is doing regarding the apparent breach of the agreement. Hashimoto’s online disciplinary history shows no new actions since the 2019 action.

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

When licensees violate the terms of the orders, such as a settlement agreement, RICO can ask the licensing board — in this case, the Hawaii Acupuncture Board — to take immediate action, including automatic revocation of the license, it said. William Nhieu, spokesman for the Department of Trade and Consumer Affairs, the parent agency of both the Division of Insurance and RICO.

But if the licensee disputes the finding of a violation, it can lead to a full-fledged 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, he was involved in a car accident in January 2021,” he wrote, while questioning why Civil Beat was looking into the matter.

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

The recent events are the latest twist in a long history of Hashimoto’s practice of acupuncture and his influence on the regulation of the profession in Hawaii.

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

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

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

The photos show acupuncturist Mike Hashimoto with Hawaii’s governors and other officials. (John Hill/Civil Beat/2019)

The agreement was signed in March 2019 and approved by the acupuncture board the following month, avoiding a full hearing on whether he committed gross negligence and unprofessional conduct. Hashimoto did not admit any legal or rule violations, but did admit that there were sufficient grounds for the state to seek disciplinary action.

The agreement allowed him to keep his license, but only to provide clinical instruction to acupuncture students. You were required to close your 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 the DCCA through the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act, Hashimoto’s Geico’s claim included progress notes with “one-on-one” contact hours, a discharge summary, and a vehicle accident.

But Geico sent the patient a letter, according to Hashimoto, saying he wouldn’t pay more than $75 per visit. He alleged that Geico, based on national surveys, covered only 15 minutes of treatment per session.

“Acupuncture care requires a careful evaluation, evaluation, and treatment procedure, especially in the event of an accident,” he wrote, “and not randomly pierce needles in and out in a short time.”

“It’s not fair that Geico doesn’t follow the correct fee schedules and makes their fee schedule for professionals an egregious act of discrimination.”

Beneath his signature, Hashimoto listed his acupuncture license number.

In November, after several delays, Hashimoto emailed the state hearing officer asking him to cancel a hearing scheduled for the following month. In his email to Civil Beat on Thursday, Hashimoto said that, in the end, Geico was “happy to pay me the full amount without going to trial.”

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

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

Mike Hashimoto's Acupuncture Review
An online review purporting to be from early 2022 gave Honolulu acupuncturist Mike Hashimoto five stars.

“It is hard to believe that the patient created such a misleading 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 posed as a RICO investigator to talk about the case.

“It was shocking that they even posed as state investigators and used sneaky tactics to gather information,” he wrote.

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

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