Big step for acupuncture at CMS

The headline in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announcement captures both the breakthrough, and its limits: “CMS finalizes decision to cover Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain for Medicare beneficiaries.” The January 21, 2020 news quickly rippled out through the integrative health community. David Miller, MD, LAc the president of the American Society for Acupuncturethat has pushed for the change shared this comment:

“The decision represents a landmark moment in American healthcare. This advancement is the opening of a door that was previously firmly shut. It is a testament to the efforts of everyone in the healthcare community who worked towards improving the research base, educational infrastructure, and professional representation of acupuncture. Our next steps need to center on the effective and sustainable delivery of this valuable practice.”

The chair-elect of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health Francoise Adan, MD also acknowledged the community wide effort: “This shows how much we can accomplished when we all work together We are not stopping here, next steps: acupuncturists recognized as Medicare providers and than more indications.”

Both Miller and Adan reference limits. The CME move includes licensed acupuncturists but not as independent practitioners. (Thus is as far as CMS could go without a Congressional act.) And the focus on just the one condition of chronic low back pain denies seniors access to acupuncture services for multiple other conditions supported by research. The rule allows up to 20 visits per year, with 12 visits in the first 90 days “with demonstration of improvement.”

For an excellent 2-page ASA/NCCAOM Letter on the Decision, click here.

Be sure to follow up for more developments from John at The Integrator Blog News & Reports.

Learn More About the Author

John Weeks

Publisher-editor of The Integrator Blog News & Report

John Weeks is a writer, speaker, chronicler and organizer whose work in the movement for integrative health and medicine began in 1983. He is publisher-editor of The Integrator Blog News & Reports which since 1995 – in various forms – has created primary connective terrain for the diverse stakeholders and professions in the field. Archived content from 2006-2015 is available here and subsequent content here.

In 2014, three integrative health consortia and others combined to grant him a Lifetime Achievement Living Tribute Award. Four academic institutions have granted him honorary doctorates for his work. Seattle-based, he considers himself a particularly lucky soul to have worked remotely while living with his spouse Jeana Kimball, ND, MPH, and their children in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico for 6 of the last 17 years.

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