Currently, acupuncture treatment is not covered by Medicare. However, CMS announced on July 15, 2019 a proposal to cover acupuncture treatment for Medicare patients with chronic low back pain who are enrolled participants either in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health or in CMS-approved studies. This announcement is in direct response to the ongoing opioid crisis as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is looking into providing more evidence-based non-pharmacologic treatment options for chronic pain. HHS Secretary Alex Azar stated that “defeating our country’s epidemic of opioid addiction requires identifying all possible ways to treat the very real problem of chronic pain, and this proposal would provide patients with new options while expanding our scientific understanding of alternative approaches to pain.”
While this likely will not have any immediate impact on any Medicare Set-Asides, CMS is reviewing this treatment to determine whether acupuncture is reasonable treatment for beneficiaries with chronic low back pain.