Ohio Medicaid Expands Acupuncture to Combat Opioid Epidemic

January 2018 ~

In an effort to curb reliance on opioid painkillers, Ohio’s Medicaid program has expanded coverage for acupuncture treatment as a non-drug, alternative pain management method.

Effective January 1st, 2018, the state will include acupuncture as a covered service for low back pain and migraines into the state Medicaid program. Patients will be able to see licensed, non-physician acupuncturists who register as Medicaid providers. There are about 250 acupuncturists licensed to practice in Ohio, according to the State Medical Board. Ohio Medicaid expects about half will enroll as Medicaid providers, in addition to about 60 chiropractors who will sign up to obtain an acupuncture specialty.

President of OAAOM, Jared West, commented that the inclusion of acupuncture into the Medicaid program is a big step forward for the state, but limiting the coverage to migraines and low back pain does not adequately reduce the use of opiates across the program and overly limits the potential value acupuncture could provide. “We are excited to be able to add acupuncture to the Ohio Medicaid program and will be working to build this success out to the private marketplace,” said West. “Our association has been pushing Medicaid to include other evidence-based diagnoses that often lead to narcotic prescriptions such as osteoarthritis of the knee, chronic pain, and postoperative pain.”

Ohio is the first state in the Midwest to provide Medicaid recipients access to covered acupuncture benefits. The state has been is one of many struggling to battle the current opioid epidemic in the U.S., with overdose deaths increasing from 3,050 in 2015 to 4,050 last year according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). An average of 11 people died each day of drug overdoses in Ohio in 2017.

In response, the Ohio Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (OAAOM) has been proactively promoting the inclusion of acupuncture as a safe, effective and cost-efficient health treatment.

According to a 2015 study by Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University, repeated acupuncture treatment “may reduce or eliminate the need for opioids by restoring the balance in the connectivity of the key pain brain regions, altering pain-related attention and memory.” The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) states that more emphasis must be placed on alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, which has been shown to be effective in treating pain.

OAAOM plans to continue its initiatives for the inclusivity of acupuncture into the Medicaid program in order to increase safe, effective and cost-efficient care for all Medicaid patients.



Source(s): NCCAOM; Cleveland.com; Leavitt Partners Weekly News Summary; WFMJ; Dayton Daily News;