The decision comes after the centers reviewed medical studies on acupuncture which supported the non-opioid or pharmacological therapy for chronic low back pain which a large number of private insurers cover for certain indicators, the release says.
Acupuncture involves the stimulation of specific points on the body, usually by inserting needles. The new policy will see Medicare covering up to 12 of these sessions in 90 days with an additional eight sessions for those lower back pain patients who show improvement, according to the release.
Covering acupuncture is just one facet of the Trump administration’s attempts to curb the crisis which also includes issuing safety alerts to pharmacists when a Medicare beneficiary’s opioid prescription exceeds a certain level. These efforts have led to a 31 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions since 2017, the release says.
“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 says in the release. “We are building on important lessons learned from the private sector in this critical aspect of patient care. 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.”