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En español | Original Medicare covers acupuncture only for enrollees with chronic low back pain. If you have had low back pain for at least 12 weeks, and the pain is not associated with another cause (such as an infectious disease, surgery or pregnancy), you are entitled to 12 acupuncture sessions in a 90-day period.
Medicare may pay for additional sessions if your pain decreases — up to eight more, to a maximum of 20 in a year. If your condition does not improve, Medicare will not pay for acupuncture beyond 12 visits.
The provider can be a doctor who meets applicable state requirements to perform acupuncture, or a physician assistant, nurse practitioner or other personnel if they have a master's or doctoral-level degree in acupuncture or Oriental medicine from an accredited school and a state license to practice it.
Acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body, usually by inserting thin needles through the skin, to alleviate pain. Until January 2020, Medicare did not cover it in any circumstances, and you will still pay 100 percent of the cost of acupuncture to address conditions other than low back pain. Medicare does not cover other forms of alternative medicine, such as naturopathy, homeopathy or — except for medically necessary spinal manipulation — chiropractic care.
Medicare Advantage private insurance plans may include broader coverage for acupuncture. Check with your Medicare Advantage plan provider about specific treatments. You likely will need to use an acupuncturist who is in your plan’s network to take full advantage of this benefit.
Editor's note: This article, originally published on October 24, 2019, has been updated to reflect changes in Medicare's policy on acupunture.
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