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does Medicare cover acupuncture

Does Medicare Cover Acupuncture?

Curious about whether Medicare includes acupuncture in its coverage? The answer is yes, but the full answer is a bit more nuanced. Medicare does cover acupuncture, but it’s not a guarantee every time. 

Similar to any program, Medicare has specific requirements for covering your acupuncture costs. We’ll walk you through these conditions, ensuring you know what to expect with clarity.

If you’re considering acupuncture and curious about Medicare coverage, you’ve come to the right place. Navigating medical coverage can be a puzzle, but fear not, we’re here to provide clarity. Understanding if Medicare includes acupuncture is pivotal for your healthcare decisions, and we’re here to break it down for you.

Curious about how Medicare covers acupuncture? We’ve got you covered with the essential insights you need to know. As you explore the full article, you’ll discover the key factors that play into Medicare’s coverage for acupuncture treatments. Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn:

  • Navigating Nuances: Understand why Medicare’s coverage of acupuncture isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Learn about the specific requirements that must be met before Medicare steps in.
  • Alternative Coverage Options: Learn about supplementary coverage through Medigap plans and how state Medicaid programs can play a role in covering acupuncture costs.
  • Private Health Insurance Possibilities: Uncover the potential for finding acupuncture coverage through private health insurance plans.
  • Cost Considerations: Get a grasp on the financial side, including the average cost of acupuncture sessions and potential out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries.

With these insights at your fingertips, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions about whether Medicare’s acupuncture coverage aligns with your healthcare needs. Keep reading to delve deeper into the details that matter most to you.

Does Medicare Cover Acupuncture?

medicare written on a piece of paper - article about does medicare cover acupuncture

The short answer is yes; Medicare will cover the cost of acupuncture. But not 100% of the time. As is often the case with Medicare, certain conditions have to be met in order for Medicare to pay for your acupuncture. Below we look at what these are so you know what to expect.

Necessity and Medical Justification of Acupuncture

Medicare can cover acupuncture for treating long-lasting lower back pain. To qualify, you need to meet these requirements:

  1. Have chronic lower back pain for at least 12 weeks.
  2. Confirm that your pain isn’t due to other issues like cancer, infection, or surgery.
  3. Attempted other treatments like physical therapy or medication without success.

Besides meeting these medical standards, you must have your healthcare provider’s recommendation and medical records. They need to suggest acupuncture for your back pain and provide proof of your condition.

These recommendations and records help Medicare decide if acupuncture is necessary and fitting for you. Medicare aims to ensure effective and safe treatments.

Additional points to remember about Medicare’s acupuncture coverage:

  • Only licensed acupuncturists‘ services are covered.
  • Medicare only covers acupuncture for chronic lower back pain, not other issues.
  • You can get up to 12 acupuncture sessions in 90 days.
  • You’ll pay 20% of the cost as coinsurance for each covered acupuncture session.

Before trying acupuncture, talk to your healthcare provider. They can assess if it’s right for your situation and refer you to a licensed acupuncturist if needed.

Approved Providers and Settings

Medicare covers acupuncture services when provided by certain healthcare providers in specific settings. These approved providers include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and auxiliary personnel who meet specific requirements.

For a healthcare provider to be considered approved by Medicare for acupuncture, they must meet these criteria:

1. Hold a masters or doctoral degree in acupuncture or Oriental Medicine from an accredited school recognized by the Accreditation Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).

2. Possess a current, unrestricted license to practice acupuncture in the state where they offer care.

Medicare also covers acupuncture services in various settings:

1. Doctor’s offices

2. Hospitals

3. Skilled nursing facilities

4. Rehabilitation facilities

5. Home health agencies

6. Rural health clinics

7. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)

The requirement for qualified healthcare professionals to provide acupuncture treatments stems from the belief that this therapy is safe and effective when administered by skilled practitioners. These professionals have the expertise to safely insert acupuncture needles and assess patient responses.

Moreover, the stipulation for approved clinical settings ensures patients receive acupuncture in safe and hygienic environments with proper equipment and facilities, ensuring high-quality care.

Medicare Coverage for Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain

Who’s eligible for acupuncture coverage?

Medicare Part B covers acupuncture for chronic low back pain if you:

  • Have Medicare Part B
  • Are 65 or older
  • Have chronic low back pain for 12+ weeks
  • Didn’t have back surgery in the last 12 months
  • Are not pregnant

How many sessions are included?

Medicare covers up to 12 acupuncture sessions in 90 days. If you improve, you might get 8 more sessions. But if there’s no progress after 20 sessions, Medicare won’t cover more.

Provider requirements:

Your acupuncture provider must be:

  • A doctor (MD/DO), nurse practitioner (NP), or physician assistant (PA)
  • Licensed to practice where treatment happens
  • Trained in acupuncture

They should be supervised by a doctor (MD/DO), NP, or PA who’s a Medicare provider.

Additional info:

  • Medicare usually only covers chronic low back pain, not other conditions.
  • You might pay a copay or coinsurance.
  • Check your Medicare plan for more coverage rules.

Other Conditions That Medicare May Cover Acupuncture For

Medicare might cover acupuncture for other conditions too. These include:

1. Migraine headaches: Acupuncture has been proven to reduce the number of migraine days by half for people with chronic migraines.

2. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ): Acupuncture may ease jaw pain, clicking, and popping in those with TMJ.

3. Carpal tunnel syndrome: Acupuncture could alleviate wrist nerve pain, numbness, and tingling.

4. Nausea and vomiting from cancer treatment: Acupuncture might help reduce these side effects during chemotherapy.

5. Post-surgery pain: Acupuncture could lower pain and enhance recovery after surgery.

Remember, not all these conditions are always covered. Your doctor can guide you on whether acupuncture suits your needs. Some key points about Medicare coverage:

  • An eligible acupuncturist is a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant with a master’s or doctoral degree in acupuncture and state license.
  • You must meet your Medicare Part B deductible first.
  • You’ll pay 20% of the approved cost for each session.

If you’re considering acupuncture, consult your doctor to find a qualified acupuncturist covered by your Medicare plan.

How To Find An Acupuncturist Who Is Covered By Medicare

If you’re considering acupuncture as a treatment and want to know if Medicare will cover it, here’s what you need to know. Medicare does cover acupuncture for chronic lower back pain, but there are specific rules. To find an acupuncturist covered by Medicare:

1. Contact Local Medicare Office: Reach out to your local Medicare office. They can give you a list of approved acupuncturists nearby who can bill Medicare.

2. Search Online: Look online for Medicare-approved acupuncturists. Some websites list these practitioners.

When searching, ask these questions:

  • Is the acupuncturist a qualified healthcare provider or a doctor?
  • Do they have a master’s or doctoral degree in acupuncture or Oriental medicine from an accredited school (ACAOM)?
  • Are they licensed to do acupuncture where you’ll get treatment?
  • Are they in your Medicare plan’s network?

Once you find the right acupuncturist, you can set up an appointment and start your treatment.

Additional tips:

– Get a referral from your doctor to an acupuncturist familiar with Medicare.

– Check if your local hospital or clinic has a Medicare-covered acupuncturist.

– Ask friends, family, or neighbors for recommendations based on their experiences with Medicare-covered acupuncturists.

Original Medicare

Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) provides coverage for acupuncture. Coverage for acupuncture treatment is provided by Medicare Part B. 

Medicare Part B covers 12 acupuncture sessions within 90 days. However, Medicare Part B may cover up to 20 sessions of acupuncture treatment in a year. It may cover those additional 8 sessions if you are showing improvement during your acupuncture treatment. 

However, you must meet some conditions for Medicare Part B to provide coverage for your acupuncture treatment. These conditions consist of the following:

  • If you are diagnosed with lower back pain and you have experienced it for 12 weeks or longer already
  • Your back pain is not due to metastatic, inflammatory, or infectious disease, or it does not have an identified systemic cause
  • Surgery or pregnancy did not cause your back pain
  • If your healthcare provider is qualified to perform acupuncture treatment.

Your healthcare provider is considered qualified if he/she has:

A master’s or doctoral-level degree in acupuncture or Oriental Medicine, and he/she got the degree in a school recognized by the Accreditation Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM)

A current, full, active, and unrestricted license that allows him/her to practice acupuncture in the state where he/she will perform the acupuncture treatment

Medicare Part B only provides coverage for acupuncture treatment for chronic lower back pain. Once approved by Medicare Part B, they will cover 80 percent of the costs of your acupuncture treatment. You will pay for the remaining 20 percent.

Part C Coverage for Acupuncture

Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) also provide coverage for acupuncture. They cover everything Original Medicare covers but usually also provide some additional benefits. However, exactly what Part C plans cover and what your out-of-pocket costs are will vary depending on the specifics of your plan.

Because Medicare Part C plans must provide coverage for everything Original Medicare covers, all Part C plans provide coverage for acupuncture treatment for chronic lower back pain. However, some Medicare Part C plans may offer additional coverage for acupuncture treatment to treat other conditions.

Alternatives and Supplemental Coverage

Supplemental Plans (Medigap)

Medigap Plans and Acupuncture

Medigap plans are private health insurance options that can assist in paying for certain expenses related to Original Medicare, like copayments and deductibles. They can also cover services that Original Medicare doesn’t, including acupuncture.

How does Medigap handle acupuncture?

Medigap plans usually cover acupuncture as a medical expense. After you meet your deductible, they contribute to the cost of acupuncture. The exact amount varies by plan, with some covering the full cost and others only a part.

Which Medigap plans include acupuncture?

Not all Medigap plans include acupuncture. Typically, it’s the more expensive plans that offer acupuncture coverage. The specific plans covering acupuncture can differ by state.

How to confirm Medigap’s acupuncture coverage

Before choosing a Medigap plan, you can check the plan’s benefits booklet to confirm acupuncture coverage. Alternatively, you can contact the insurance company offering the plan to inquire about their acupuncture coverage.

Is there a Medigap plan exclusively for acupuncture?

No, there’s no Medigap plan solely for acupuncture. However, some plans have optional riders that can be added for acupuncture coverage, usually at an extra cost.

Is Medigap the only option for acupuncture coverage?

No, Medigap isn’t the sole option. Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are alternatives. They allow you to set aside pre-tax money for medical expenses, including acupuncture.

When is Medigap suitable for acupuncture costs?

Medigap can work well if you want broader coverage with Original Medicare. Remember, though, that Medigap plans can be costly. Before choosing, compare different plans’ expenses to find the right fit.

State Medicaid Programs

Certainly, let’s break down how state Medicaid programs might cover acupuncture treatments in a straightforward manner:

  • California: If you’re in California, Medicaid can cover acupuncture for chronic low back pain, migraines, and cancer-related nausea. Just ensure that a licensed acupuncturist certified by NCCAOM provides the treatment.
  • Colorado: In Colorado, Medicaid includes acupuncture for chronic pain like back pain, neck pain, and headaches. Remember, the acupuncturist should be licensed and NCCAOM-certified.
  • Hawaii: Medicaid in Hawaii covers acupuncture for chronic low back pain, migraines, and cancer-related nausea. Stick with a licensed acupuncturist certified by NCCAOM.
  • Minnesota: If you’re in Minnesota, Medicaid covers acupuncture for various issues such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and quitting smoking. Make sure your acupuncturist is licensed and NCCAOM-certified.
  • New York: New York’s Medicaid covers acupuncture for chronic pain, which includes back pain, neck pain, and headaches. It’s important that the acupuncture is performed by a physician certified by the New York State Department of Education.

Remember, these examples showcase how state Medicaid programs can cover acupuncture, but each state might have different rules. To find out more about your specific situation, get in touch with your state Medicaid agency.

Apart from Medicaid, some private insurance companies also cover acupuncture. The rules can differ between plans, so it’s essential to get in touch with your insurance company for details.

If you’re considering acupuncture, ensure that your acupuncturist is licensed and certified by a respected organization like NCCAOM. Plus, make sure they’re willing to work with your insurance company to help with coverage.

Other Payment Options

Different ways to pay for acupuncture treatments are available when Medicare doesn’t cover it:

1. Private insurance: Some plans might cover acupuncture, but you need to check with your insurer for details and limits.

2. Health savings accounts (HSAs): If you have a high-deductible health plan, an HSA can cover acupuncture expenses.

3. Flexible spending accounts (FSAs): FSAs also cover acupuncture if you have pre-tax funds available.

4. Cash: Paying with cash is an option if you lack insurance or coverage.


– Confirm payment methods with your acupuncturist before starting.

– Some require a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from your doctor.

– Costs vary, so gather quotes from different acupuncturists.

– Discounts might apply for multiple treatments or upfront payments, so ask about them.

Acupuncture Coverage from Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance plans have varying coverage for acupuncture. Some might cover it for certain conditions, while others might not cover it at all. Check your plan to know if acupuncture is covered and the conditions it applies to.

Usually, private health insurance is more likely to cover acupuncture if it’s recommended by a doctor or for chronic issues like pain. Coverage can depend on your plan type, state where you live, the condition you’re treating, and the acupuncturist.

If you’re considering acupuncture, talk to your insurance to find out coverage details, including costs. Also, inquire about limits like yearly visits or covered conditions.

Tips for finding acupuncture coverage:

– Ask your doctor for in-network acupuncturists.

– Look for plans that mention acupuncture coverage.

– Think about high-deductible plans and health savings accounts for paying with those funds.

If private insurance doesn’t cover acupuncture, you might pay out-of-pocket. Some acupuncturists offer flexible fees. You could also explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) insurance plans.

How Much Does Acupuncture Cost?

The first acupuncture session usually costs around $120 to $300. Later sessions average between $75 and $300.

Other Acupuncture Cost Considerations

Understanding the costs associated with acupuncture under Medicare involves several considerations:

1. Deductible: You’ll need to pay your Medicare Part B deductible. Until this deductible is met, you’ll need to pay the full cost of your acupuncture treatments.

2. Coinsurance: Once your deductible is met, you’ll cover 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for each acupuncture session.

3. Copayment: Certain Medicare Advantage plans have copayments for acupuncture. The specific copayment will depend on the plan you have.

Factors influencing costs and affecting Medicare beneficiaries include:

Provider Type: Medicare covers acupuncture by licensed acupuncturists. Treatment from an unlicensed acupuncturist won’t be reimbursed.

Provider Location: Acupuncture costs can vary based on where you receive treatment. Urban providers may charge more than rural ones.

Number of Treatments: Costs depend on the number of treatments needed. More treatments mean higher out-of-pocket expenses.

To manage costs:

Choose a Licensed Provider: Opt for licensed acupuncturists who accept Medicare for reimbursement.

Explore Discounts: Inquire about senior or low-income discounts and payment plans from providers.

Consider Medigap: Medigap policies can help cover out-of-pocket costs, including acupuncture.

Discuss treatment costs with your acupuncturist before starting sessions. This clarity empowers you to make an informed decision about your acupuncture journey.

Acupuncture: Benefits and Significance

Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese medical practice, uses thin needles in specific body points. These points link to energy pathways called qi. By doing this, acupuncture improves energy flow and supports healing.

For a long time, people have used acupuncture to treat various issues like pain, nausea, headaches, anxiety, and feeling down. Recently, science has also shown that acupuncture can actually work for these problems.

Here are some ways acupuncture might help:

Pain Relief: It can ease pain from different conditions, even chronic pain, arthritis, and headaches.

Less Stress: Acupuncture can lower stress and anxiety by making the body release natural pain-relievers.

Better Sleep: It might help improve sleep by reducing stress and anxiety.

Fertility Help: Women with unexplained infertility might find it useful for improving their chances of getting pregnant.

Breaking Addictions: Acupuncture could help people quit smoking and other habits.

Treating Nausea: It’s good at stopping nausea and vomiting from pregnancy, chemotherapy, and other medical problems.

Acupuncture is a safe and good way to treat health issues. It doesn’t usually have bad effects. Plus, it’s not too expensive, and many insurances cover it.

Medicare Part B even pays for acupuncture for chronic pain, chemo-related nausea and vomiting, and post-surgery nausea and vomiting. If a doctor suggests it, Medicare Part D might also pay for acupuncture.


To sum it up, figuring out how Medicare covers acupuncture can really help your health journey. You’ve learned about things like who can get acupuncture covered and where to go for it. This info can make a big difference if you have things like back pain or migraines.

Learning all this helps you make good choices for your health. So, whether you’re interested in acupuncture’s benefits and/or want to use Medicare to cover your acupuncture treatments, keep learning and exploring. You’re on the right track to feeling better!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many acupuncture sessions will Medicare cover?

Medicare Part B helps with doctors, supplies, and more. It covers 12 acupuncture sessions in 90 days for back pain. If you get better, you might have 8 more sessions covered. But if not, it stops. 20 sessions max in a year.

When did Medicare start covering acupuncture?

In 2020, Medicare started covering acupuncture for back pain. Acupuncture helps ease neck, back, and knee pain according to experts. This is part of the effort to fight the opioid crisis and offer more choices for pain relief. Medicare is working to improve options for seniors, and this decision is a step in that direction. It’s good news for those dealing with ongoing back pain.

How much does acupuncture typically cost?

Acupuncture costs vary. On average, starting sessions might be $15-$400, with follow-ups at $15-$300. Factors like where you are, your condition, and provider influence cost. Usually, 6-8 treatments are common for a single issue, often 1-2 per week.

Who shouldn’t get acupuncture?

Before getting acupuncture, discuss with your doctor if you have bleeding disorders or use certain medicines. Avoid acupuncture if you have metal allergies, infections where needles go, or an AICD device. Also, if you deal with psychosis or delusions, acupuncture might not be suitable.

Is acupuncture recognized as a qualified medical expense?

Certain insurances cover acupuncture, which can cost $100+ per session. Paying out-of-pocket? You can list it as a medical expense on taxes. Facial Acupuncture, a non-invasive option, is covered by many Health Benefit Plans with acupuncture coverage.

Note: Medicare coverage changes all the time. And your specific coverage may vary from plan to plan for Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans. Always be sure to double check with your health care provider and/or Medicare insurance provider about what your plan covers and what it does not.

Additional Info on Medicare Coverage

Also, you can check out other articles in this series including such as Medicare coverage of home health as well as medications such as Dexilant.

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