Medicare to Cover Some Acupuncture in AAFP Advocacy Win

January 28, 2020 03:51 pm News Staff

In a move the Academy championed last summer, CMS has announced it will begin Medicare coverage for acupuncture to treat chronic low back pain.

[patient receiving acupuncture]

The agency's Jan. 21 memo(www.cms.gov) outlines policy allowing up to 12 acupuncture treatments in 90 days for Medicare beneficiaries under some circumstances.

The AAFP supported this move in an Aug. 7 letter to CMS(2 page PDF) that the Academy sent in response to a July proposal(www.cms.gov) from the agency.

The Academy wrote that the coverage proposal -- allowing acupuncture visits for patients enrolled in NIH-supported clinical trials or in CMS-approved studies meeting criteria of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -- was in line with an AAFP-endorsed guideline from the American College of Physicians regarding the diagnosis and treatment of low back pain.

Acupuncture, the guideline says, is among the nonpharmacologic treatments(annals.org) that should be used initially for most patients with such pain.

Family physicians at the 2019 AAFP Congress of Delegates also discussed adding acupuncture to the treatment protocols covered by Medicare. Delegates adopted a measure that called for the AAFP to develop new policy supporting insurance coverage of acupuncture for pain control when it is ordered by a licensed physician or a licensed collaborating advanced-practice clinician on the physician's practice team.

Related AAFP News Coverage
Nonpharmacologic Therapies Can Improve Chronic Pain Outcomes
Reductions in Drug Misuse, Suicide Attempts Reported

(1/15/2020)

Study: FPs Who Learn Acupuncture Prescribe Fewer Opioids
(2/21/2019)

More From AAFP
American Family Physician: Editorial: Integrating Medical Acupuncture into Family Medicine Practice

(7/15/2019)