There has been a lot of excitement lately about the decision of Medicare (CMS) to cover acupuncture for low back pain. We have had a lot of inquiries about whether or not Green Valley Acupuncture will be participating in this new Medicare benefit. The short answer is no. Not immediately, anyway. However, this announcement is yet one more step towards the acupuncture profession’s progress in gaining widespread respect and place in modern healthcare it deserves. It still comes up short for most acupuncturists at this time.
For many years, the many state and national level acupuncture organizations have been working towards the goal of bringing acupuncture into mainstream healthcare. CMS, as of July 2019, asserted that it would run a trial study to determine if acupuncture could, in fact, be used for low back pain as many doctors slowed (and stopped in many cases) their opioid prescriptions. Patients needed something to help with their pain. CMS was willing to look at it. Instead of running their study, CMS decided to allow acupuncture for low back pain for billing providers as of January 2020.
Here’s the catch, Licensed Acupuncturists, at this time, cannot be recognized by CMS as a legitimate type of billing provider. In order for an acupuncturist to give treatments for low back pain, they must work in a doctor’s office under supervision. The doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant (if registered with CMS) may then bill for acupuncture. This is frustrating to most acupuncturists as most of us do not work in or for an MD. Now, the onus is still on acupuncturists as a collective to push CMS to accept Licensed Acupuncturists as “Billing Providers.”
For a more detailed history, as well as the current state of CMS as it pertains to Acupuncture, see the article posted by Samuel Collins* here:
*Samuel Collins is a health insurance expert as it pertains to the acupuncture profession and works for the American Acupuncture Council.