“By focusing on older adults and addressing the limitations of previous published research, evidence derived from this initiative would assist [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] in determining future Medicare coverage for acupuncture,” according to the announcement.
The eligible studies must be sponsored by the National Institutes of Health or approved by CMS.
Chronic low back pain — generally defined as pain that lasts 12 weeks or more — is a complex disorder with numerous causes that afflicts millions of people. There is widespread agreement that health-care providers have overused powerful opioid painkillers to address it.
Currently, Medicare covers injections, braces, implanted neurostimulators and chiropractic care as well as drugs for chronic low-back pain, under certain conditions set by the program. But Monday’s announcement said there is too little research on the use of acupuncture among older people to make a good decision on whether it should be widely covered.