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Will Medicare Cover My Insurance?

August 14, 2019 Health News
medicare acupuncture coverage photo

As acupuncture continues to become a more and more accepted medical treatment in the West, it’s made some surprising breakthroughs this summer in the United States.

Medicare —the federal government program that provides health care coverage to people 65 years and older, along with those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance —said it’s moving toward covering acupuncture for chronic low back pain as an alternative to opioid painkillers.

Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, explains this approach:

“Defeating our country’s epidemic of opioid addiction requires identifying all possible ways to treat the very real problem of chronic pain, and this proposal would provide patients with new options while expanding our scientific understanding of alternative approaches to pain.”

Kimberly Brandt, CMS Principal Deputy Administrator of Operations and Policy, also commented on this encouraging decision:

“Chronic low back pain impacts many Medicare patients and is a leading reason for opioid prescribing. Today’s proposed decision would provide Medicare patients who suffer from chronic low back pain with access to a nonpharmacologic treatment option and could help reduce reliance on prescription opioids.”

How It’ll Work

While this is an important step for acupuncture, the government is starting out small. Currently, covered acupuncture access will be limited to seniors who are enrolled either in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or CMS-approved studies. Conducting numerous studies will allow Medicare to have the data necessary to potentially have acupuncture covered more broadly throughout the U.S.

Acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist Christine Kaiser, who works at the University Hospitals in Cleveland, has seen the effects of the opioid crisis on a daily basis. She commented on this proposal in a recent statement:

 “It’s groundbreaking for nonpharmacological pain treatment. We have a large crisis with the opioid epidemic in Ohio,” she says. “Almost everyone has been touched.”

In addition to acupuncture, researchers are also investigating additional alternatives treatments for chronic pain, which include cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness meditation. We’ll continue to update readers on news surrounding these clinic studies as updates are made public.

And if you’re an acupuncture practitioner interested in learning more about our ehr and practice management software, get started here.