Acupuncture - Now Covered by Medicare!

Exciting news! You can now add acupuncture to the list of services that Medicare covers. In January, the CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) announced that acupuncture will now be covered for individuals with chronic low back pain. Before this, acupuncture was a non-covered service by Medicare. If you are considering receiving acupuncture, your Medicare Part B will cover up to 12 visits in a 90-day period. There are some stipulations, however. For instance, Medicare will not cover your services if you experience this chronic low back pain related to surgery or pregnancy. It will also not be covered if it is related to a recognizable systemic cause, such as metastatic, inflammatory, or an infectious disease. If you find that utilizing acupuncture helps, and improvement is shown, then Medicare will cover an additional eight sessions. It is important to note that Medicare will not cover more than 20 treatments per year.

What is considered chronic low back pain?

According to the North American Spine Society, low back pain is classified as chronic if it has been present for more than three months. For individuals with chronic low back pain, the original source may be healed, but the pain may continue. The intensity of low back pain can range from mild to severe. Since the original source of pain is either unidentifiable or already possibly healed, the symptoms are treated to aid in reducing pain and helping with the activities of everyday life. In the evaluation of chronic back pain, the main goal is to exclude any injury or disease that can put the patient at risk of further injury if not treated.

What is acupuncture?

Although acupuncture has been around for over 3,000 years, many people have still never heard of it or quite know the process. According to Medicare.gov, acupuncture is a method that practitioners use to stimulate certain points on the body by inserting thin needles through skin. The acupuncture points are said to stimulate the central nervous system. All needles are for single use, and the puncture sites should be swabbed with alcohol before the needles are inserted. Acupuncture is said to not only help with your body physically, but also emotionally. It is also used for headaches, menopausal symptoms, blood pressure, and blood flow, just to name a few.

How do I know if it is right for me?

Acupuncture is not for everyone. Acupuncture is a risk if you have a pacemaker, bleeding disorder (or taking blood thinners), or are pregnant. Under Medicare guidelines, if you receive acupuncture services, they must be given by a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner with an accurate license and degree. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your options with chronic low back pain to see what will be best for you. If your doctor recommends acupuncture, ask for references of where to go or find a national acupuncture organization for references in your area. As always, make sure the office or clinic you go to accepts Medicare.

Sources:

Acupuncture. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/acupuncture

Acupuncture. https://www.spine.org/KnowYourBack/Treatments/Alternative-Medicine/Acupuncture