Many acupuncturists have had the attitude of Medicare – no way. They dismiss becoming Medicare providers, because they say that Medicare reimbursements are too low to make a living.
Acupuncturists are not the only practitioners with that attitude. There is a chiropractor who had one of his offices bombed and one of his offices burned, because he dared to advocate for Medicare for chiropractors years ago.
Let us open our minds to today.
It can be confusing, because now Medicare is indeed covering acupuncture directly for low back pain, but licensed acupuncturists must be supervised by an MD if low back pain is being treated, and the MD must be the one who bills Medicare. The other confusion is that acupuncturists can treat other medical issues if they are on the panel of one of the Medicare adjunct insurance groups such as Medicare Advantage.
It does require an Act of Congress to elevate acupuncturists to direct Providers of Medicare, and as excruciatingly slow as that is, we do not want the re-imbursement rates for Medicare to providers to be tied to that slow process. The reimbursement schedule is a different process and simply has to be adjusted after becoming a Medicare Provider. The first step is to get through that Act of Congress to become Medicare providers.
As noted by several experts, if we do not get on board to acupuncturists becoming providers directly with Medicare, we and our patients will lose out. Because low back pain is directly covered now by Medicare, other medical professionals, such as nurses, Physical Therapists, chiropractors and now even physical trainers will take our place. Those acupuncturists who do not want to treat Medicare patients will not be required to do so, but for the good of our profession, we need to move forward with this.
The reality is that many insurance companies will not respect acupuncturists for payments for professional services unless at least some are direct Medicare Providers, as Medicare is an insurance industry basic standard.
It is time to unite, where together we can make a difference, as our national group, the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) says.
How can you help? Support H.R. 4803. In July 2021, U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4803, the Acupuncture for our Seniors Act. U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) co-sponsored this bill in 2022. H.R. 4803 would instruct the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to recognize qualified acupuncturists as Medicare providers. Medicare recognition would enable acupuncturists to provide covered services to Medicare beneficiaries (generally those 65+) without supervision and bill Medicare directly for these services.
See https://www.asacu.org/2022/05/the-acupuncture-for-our-seniors-act-h-r-4803-fact-sheet/ for many resources and much information for how you and your patients can become involved. It was a huge step forward that there is now a Republican sponsor joining the Democrat sponsors to support the Acupuncture for our Seniors Act H.R. 4803.
Find out more:
See ASA Fact sheet: H.R.-4803-Fact-Sheet.pdf (asacu.org)
How your patients can become involved: Here’s how your patients can help move HR4803 – Patient Testimonial Kit – American Society of Acupuncturists (asacu.org)
Not too late to register for June: Register for ASA/NCCAOM’s Virtual Summer Push! – American Society of Acupuncturists (asacu.org)
What we have accomplished and can do together: The ASA and the NCCAOM Make Bipartisan Progress on HR 4803: Acupuncture for Our Seniors Act – American Society of Acupuncturists (asacu.org)
Please note: This article expresses the opinions and research of the author, and does not necessarily reflect all views or policies of NMSAAM members, the NMSAAM BOD, or the ASA.