Perspective

CMS proposes to cover acupuncture for low back pain

CMS announced in a press release that it has proposed to cover acupuncture as a possible alternative treatment to opioid use for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic low back pain who are enrolled in clinical trials sponsored by the NIH or in CMS-approved trials.

“Today’s proposal represents the Trump administration’s commitment to providing Americans with access to a wide array of options to support their health,” Alex M. Azar II, HHS Secretary, said in the release. “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.”

According to the release, CMS has collaborated with the NIH as part of the Opioids Workgroup and Evidence Generation Workgroup to begin studies on acupuncture for the treatment of chronic low back pain in patients aged 65 years old or older. With the proposed decision, CMS and NIH will continue to develop evidence for future Medicare coverage determinations for acupuncture treatment for beneficiaries with chronic low back pain.

“Chronic low back pain impacts many Medicare patients and is a leading reason for opioid prescribing,” CMS Principal Deputy Administrator of Operations and Policy Kimberly Brandt, said in the release. “ ... CMS will work closely with our sister agencies to monitor outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries receiving acupuncture to inform our understanding of the efficacy of this therapeutic approach.”

Reference:

www.cms.gov

CMS announced in a press release that it has proposed to cover acupuncture as a possible alternative treatment to opioid use for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic low back pain who are enrolled in clinical trials sponsored by the NIH or in CMS-approved trials.

“Today’s proposal represents the Trump administration’s commitment to providing Americans with access to a wide array of options to support their health,” Alex M. Azar II, HHS Secretary, said in the release. “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.”

According to the release, CMS has collaborated with the NIH as part of the Opioids Workgroup and Evidence Generation Workgroup to begin studies on acupuncture for the treatment of chronic low back pain in patients aged 65 years old or older. With the proposed decision, CMS and NIH will continue to develop evidence for future Medicare coverage determinations for acupuncture treatment for beneficiaries with chronic low back pain.

“Chronic low back pain impacts many Medicare patients and is a leading reason for opioid prescribing,” CMS Principal Deputy Administrator of Operations and Policy Kimberly Brandt, said in the release. “ ... CMS will work closely with our sister agencies to monitor outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries receiving acupuncture to inform our understanding of the efficacy of this therapeutic approach.”

Reference:

www.cms.gov

    Perspective
    Scott D. Boden

    Scott D. Boden

    On July 15, 2019, CMS announced their intention to allow acupuncture for patients with chronic low back pain to be a covered service provided they were enrolled in a clinical trial that was evaluating the efficacy of acupuncture and measuring clinical outcomes. This change comes as part of a broad effort to explore various pain management options that may provide alternatives to opioid pain medications. Acupuncture is founded based on scientific principles of pain physiology and has been shown to be effective for many medical conditions. It is unclear whether it will prove to be an efficacious modality to manage chronic low back pain, but this represents a major step in facilitating clinical trials that could answer that question. The fact that CMS has limited coverage initially to patients enrolled in clinical trials will ensure that information evaluating the efficacy of this approach is obtained before a broad coverage decision is made – and this represents a judicious approach spending our limited pool of CMS dollars on treatments with proven efficacy.

     

    • Scott D. Boden, MD
    • Professor and chair
      Department of orthopedics,
      Emory University School of Medicine
      Atlanta

    Disclosures: Boden reports no relevant financial disclosures.