Acupuncture and Medicare: CMS Considering Coverage

acupuncture and medicare

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an analysis tracking the use of acupuncture for lower back pain in January 2019. CMS is considering adding Medicare coverage for acupuncture. The notice says the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working toward providing more evidence for the non-drug, holistic treatment options for patients with chronic pain.


Acupuncture is considered to be an alternative therapy, which is why it’s not yet covered by Medicare. It works by inserting thin needles in specific parts of the body in order to alleviate pain or other health conditions. There are different theories and techniques behind acupuncture and how it is performed.

Current coverage

Original Medicare does not currently cover acupuncture. This is due to the general rule that Medicare only covers things that are medically necessary, and acupuncture does not fit that requirement according to most doctors.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be eligible for acupuncture coverage. Call your Medicare Advantage provider directly to find out if you are qualified.

Chronic pain treatment

A systematic review has been published in June 2018 for treatment of chronic pain that are noninvasive and nonpharmacological. Nonpharmacological interventions such as acupuncture, exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation for CLBP, and spinal manipulation were all assessed in the review.

A recent Funding Opportunity Announcement called for those interested in acupuncture treatment to apply to be in a large trial in order to find out the impact of this type of treatment for people aged 65 or older. The trials will also help with figuring out how to implement the treatment.

CMS will be reviewing the evidence by opening the national coverage analysis. The report will help them determine whether acupuncture is a reasonable treatment for CLBP, therefore qualifying as necessary for Medicare coverage.

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