Acupuncture has now gone main stream in Ohio as the Ohio Department of Medicaid announced that it will include acupuncture as a covered service. The state Medicaid program will cover low back pain and migraines beginning on January 1st, 2018.
Ohio is the first state in the Midwest to provide Medicaid recipients access to covered acupuncture benefits. In May 2017, the Ohio Attorney General sued five prescription drug manufacturers for their role in promoting the opioid epidemic. The Ohio Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (OAAOM) has been proactively responding to the opiate crisis by promoting the inclusion of acupuncture as a safe, effective and cost-efficient health treatment.
Acupuncture: What Is it?
Acupuncture is a component of the health care system of China that can be traced back at least 2,500 years. The practice is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. It may also correct energy imbalances at identifiable points close to the skin.
The procedures involve stimulation of anatomical locations on or in the skin. These techniques incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. Penetration of the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles, are manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.
This method to treat identifiable disease in American medicine was rare until the visit of President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972. Since that time, there has been an explosion of interest in the United States and Europe in the application of the technique to Western medicine.
Acupuncture: Why Is Ohio Providing Medicaid Coverage?
Devastated by the opioid crisis, Americans have been experiencing an increase in addiction to prescription pain relievers. According to the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2016, nearly 1 million used heroin, and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder due to prescription opioids or heroin. Ohio has been particularly hit hard with overdose deaths increasing from 3,050 in 2015 to 4,050 last year according to the Ohio Department of Health. An average of 11 people died each day of drug overdoses last year in Ohio.
Indeed, acupuncture is a viable evidence-based solution to the opioid crisis that America is currently facing. According to a 2015 study by Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University, repeated 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.” OAAOM plans to continue its initiatives for the inclusivity of this procedure into the Medicaid program in order to increase safe, effective and cost-efficient care for all Medicaid patients. They are also confident that eventually Ohio Medicaid will expand its coverage to other chronic illnesses.
Ohio is the first State to cover acupuncture treatment under the Medicaid program. It is quite possible that other states will now follow Ohio’s lead in an effort to stem the raging tide of opioid addiction.