Medicare to cover acupuncture for chronic low back pain

As part of CMS' efforts to address the opioid crisis, the agency announced Jan. 21 that Medicare will cover acupuncture for people with chronic low back pain.  

Under the decision, Medicare will cover up to 12 acupuncture session in 90 days. Medicare will cover an additional eight sessions for patients with chronic back pain who demonstrate improvement.

"We are dedicated to increasing access to alternatives to prescription opioids and believe that covering acupuncture for chronic low back pain is in the best interest of Medicare patients," CMS Principal Deputy Administrator of Operations and Policy Kimberly Brandt said in a news release. "Over-reliance on opioids for people with chronic pain is one of the factors that led to the crisis, so it is vital that we offer a range of treatment options for our beneficiaries."

For the purpose of its decision, CMS defined chronic lower back pain as lasting 12 weeks or longer, having no identifiable systemic cause and not associated with surgery or pregnancy.

Read the full decision here.

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