Medicare takes public comments for covering acupuncture treatment

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Acupuncture. (CBS News photo)
Acupuncture. (CBS News photo)

Sidney Simon, 91, is active for his age. He doesn’t let those years stop him from having fun with his family.

“I was getting ready to go for a bike ride with my favorite little grandson,” Simon said. “As I tried to lift the bike off my carrier, it didn’t go off easy and I almost went back down on my knees.”

Simon felt terrible back pain. To ease the pain, he turned to Brian Healy, an acupuncture physician in Lee County.

“I trusted him, and it worked,” Simon said.

Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine, is a technique that balances the flow of energy or life force. It uses needles that are smaller than the size of a human hair. When properly inserted, it will feel like a mosquito bite, if the patient feels them at all.

But the problem Simon encountered with the procedure was his insurance company does not offer coverage, as a majority do not. Nor does Medicare, which provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and above, for now.

“For the first time, Medicare is considering the possibility of reimbursing for acupuncture treatments,” Healy said.

Now, Medicare is taking public comments on acupuncture’s effectiveness at treating lower back pain. Treatment, Simon said, could be a safe alternative to surgery or medications.

“I’m so against what opioids are doing to our society,” Simon said.

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