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Congress Should Expand Medicare Acupuncture Treatments – For Patients And Cost Savings


By Samantha L. Francis, D.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Acu. (NCCAOM)

Our Seniors are in pain. As our population ages we all learn more and more about the physical, mental and emotional toll of aging. One of the benefits of our internet age is that we have gained access to vast realms of new, and old, knowledge, expanding our understanding of the universe, our world, ourselves and our bodies. This has, among other things, led to reevaluating alternatives to our traditional ways of thinking and to other traditions as well.

Enter acupuncture. Once almost thought of as Far Eastern voodoo, today acupuncture is a respected and acknowledged treatment for a wide variety of issues and ailments. National and international authorities, including the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Medical Association, have recognized the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for a wide range of issues, including chronic and post-operative pain, musculo-skeletal disorders, respiratory problems, neurological disorders, mental-emotional disorders, gastrointestinal conditions, ear, eye and mouth disorders, and reproductive issues. 

Professionally trained and certified acupuncturists are successfully treating seniors for a multitude of issues and are doing so at very reasonable rates. But in spite of the increasing success and acceptance of acupuncture, Medicare still limits acupuncture coverage to lower back pain and a small number of treatments. These treatments must currently be performed either by an MD or under an MD’s direct supervision; and most doctors do not have the time or capacity to perform acupuncture in addition to their other work. 

Acupuncture can bring real cost savings to our medical system. Studies performed at Abbot Northwestern’s Penny George Instiitute in Minneapolis showed acupuncture can not only reduce hospital stays for post-operative pain, but also reduce use of opioid medications. Acupuncture also has low adverse effects and positive side effects compared to other interventions. 

Congress is working to make acupuncture more accessible for seniors. . On May 12, 2023, U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-California) introduced H.R. 3133, the Acupuncture for our Seniors Act. H.R. 3133 would instruct the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to recognize qualified acupuncturists as Medicare providers. This bipartisan bill would enable eligible acupuncturists to provide covered services to Medicare beneficiaries (generally those 65+) without supervision and bill Medicare directly for these services. The access to acupuncture would greatly increase patient care and options, reducing the need for opiates and providing a better quality of life for our seniors. 

Will this solve all the problems? No. Medicare still needs to greatly expand the acupuncture services it covers. Doing so will reduce suffering — short, long and chronic — for our seniors and will result in cost savings for CMS and for patients as well. Passing H.R. 3133 is an important step to recovery for our beleaguered health care system.


Samantha L. Francis, D.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl. Acu. (NCCAOM), specializes in the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety and neurological complaints. She graduated with her Master’s Degree in Acupuncture from Tai Sophia Institute in 2010 and completed her Doctorate in Acupuncture at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH)  in 2017. Learn more at