Does Medicare Cover Acupuncture?

The answer is yes, but only in very limited circumstances.
Kate AshfordApr 20, 2021

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Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers acupuncture, but only in very limited circumstances, and for limited visits each year. The number of treatments you receive also depends on whether you’re improving.

Medicare started covering acupuncture in 2020, in an effort to increase access to alternatives to prescription opioids for pain relief.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical practice in which very thin needles are inserted through the skin at specific points on the body. It may be used to treat pain or for overall wellness, including stress management. By inserting needles at strategic points, practitioners believe they can help balance the flow of energy through the body.

When does Medicare cover acupuncture?

Medicare Part B will cover acupuncture only for chronic low back pain, which is defined by Medicare as:

  • Lasting 12 weeks or more.

  • Having no known cause (for instance, it’s not related to an inflammatory disease).

  • Pain not associated with surgery or pregnancy.

You must also receive acupuncture from a doctor or health care provider who has both of these qualifications:

  • A master's or doctoral level degree in acupuncture or Oriental Medicine from a school accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

  • A current, full, active and unrestricted license to practice acupuncture in the state where you’re receiving the care.

What are the limits on Medicare acupuncture coverage?

Medicare will cover up to 12 visits in 90 days, plus an additional eight visits if you’re improving. If your doctor thinks your back pain isn’t getting better or is getting worse, Medicare won’t cover those additional eight visits. Medicare will cover no more than 20 acupuncture treatments in a year.

Does Medicare Advantage cover acupuncture?

Medicare Advantage plans — or Medicare Part C plans — are required to offer the same coverage that Medicare Part A and Part B provide, and they may offer additional benefits. Check with the plan provider to see if the plan covers acupuncture under additional circumstances, or covers more treatments.

If you have additional questions about Medicare coverage, visit Medicare.gov or call 800-633-4227 (TTY: 877-486-2048).

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