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Medicare to Cover Acupuncture in Chronic Low Back Pain Study

With the recent opioid epidemic outcry, and associated legislation, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently approved funding  for large-scale trials to evaluate effectiveness, and develop strategies to best implement, acupuncture treatment of older adults (65 years and older) with chronic low back pain.

On July 15, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed covering acupuncture for Medicare patients with chronic low back pain who are enrolled participants either in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or in CMS-approved studies.  Acupuncture currently is not covered by Medicare.

Over the last couple of decades, numerous studies have been applied to test the efficacy of acupuncture int treating chronic pain, and low back pain in particular.  The evidence is very favorable.  CMS recognized that the evidence base for acupuncture has grown in recent years, but they still have questions.  Under the proposed decision, CMS would continue its collaboration with NIH to further develop evidence to inform future Medicare coverage determinations for acupuncture treatment for beneficiaries with chronic low back pain.  Chronic low back pain impacts innumerable Americans, including Medicare and Medicaid patients, and is a leading reason for opioid prescriptions.

We are on the road for Medicare to cover acupuncture, at least for chronic low back pain.  Acupuncture is currently used by the military, on its bases, and in war zones, though they do not yet insure for it.  The Veteran’s Association now covers acupuncture effective for veterans who suffer from:

  1. Pain associated with an injury or illness
  2. Nausea and vomiting after an operation
  3. Nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy
  4. Knee pain from osteoarthritis
  5. Low back pain
  6. Depression or other mental health concerns
  7. Substance dependency

As a nation, we are beginning to accept that this ancient technique can have far reaching effects for our health.  As usual, insurance lags behind, but the tide is turning.  Numerous insurance companies offer acupuncture coverage, though often only with higher end plans.  More is covered every day.

Here at Acupuncture & Herbal Answers, we are a provider for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Rhode Island, through which we can submit to all other Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies, including our Federal program.  We also offer a standard HICF form to our patients who are covered by other companies.  We hope to soon be able to offer direct coverage for our veterans.

Check with your insurance company to see if you are covered, how many yearly visits are allowed, and what your copay is: you may be delightfully surprised to see how affordable it is for you.

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