Pain

Does Medicare Cover Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain?

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Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese holistic treatment in which specific points on the body are stimulated via the insertion of thin needles through the skin. Acupuncture has proven to be an effective treatment for chronic pain, including lower back pain. An estimated 3 million Americans receive acupuncture treatment to reduce symptoms of chronic pain conditions.

Until recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) refused to cover acupuncture; however, in 2019, CMS finalized a decision to cover acupuncture for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic low back pain. This coverage includes a maximum of 20 treatments annually and up to 12 visits in a 90-day period.

Low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. CMS researchers found improvements in pain and function following acupuncture treatment in older adults with chronic low back pain. A strategy to reduce opioid use has resulted in CMS covering acupuncture treatment to reduce chronic low back pain.

Additional plans do not have to be purchased for Medicare to cover acupuncture treatment for chronic low back pain. It is important to note that health care professionals performing acupuncture must meet state requirements. For more information, visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s website at https://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/details/nca-decision-memo.aspx?NCAId=295.

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