When the HHS Pain Management Best Practices Interagency Report was released earlier this year, one of the recommendations that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Services cover additional alternative therapies for chronic pain.
CMS recently announced a proposal that would provide coverage of acupuncture for chronic low back pain to certain Medicare enrollees. Currently, acupuncture is not covered by Medicare in most states. Qualified individuals with chronic low back pain would need to be enrolled either in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or in CMS-approved studies.
Right now, CMS is soliciting public comment as to whether or not acupuncture for chronic low back pain should be covered by Medicare. You only have until August 14 to provide CMS with your position on its proposal. You can read more about the proposal here, or click here to comment.
(Personal note—I suffer from back pain and have used acupuncture to varying degrees of relief in the past several years.)
The U.S. Pain Foundation calls the initiative by CMS is a commendable first step in assessing the benefits of acupuncture for pain.
In a note to its members, U.S. Pain Foundation gives three tips for commentary.
- Remember that your comments will be made public, so you’ll want to be mindful of your tone and word choice, and carefully consider whether you share any private information.
- Consider thanking CMS for the proposal and why you support its decision to hear from the chronic pain community.
- You may wish to request that coverage for acupuncture be offered to all beneficiaries and for other chronic conditions, not just those participating in studies for low back pain.
Acupuncture, common in Chinese medicine, involves inserting thin, tiny needles into certain points of the body. Traditional Chinese practitioners believe acupuncture balances the flow of energy or life force – known as qi or chi. Western practitioners see it as a way to stimulate nerves and muscles in a way that promotes pain relief and healing.
What are your experiences with acupuncture? Let us know in our commentary section. Are there other alternative therapies you’d like to see covered?