Acupuncture Coverage in Florida's Medicare Part C Advantage Plans and Statewide Medicaid Managed Care

Originally presented in webinar format by David Bibbey, LAc. The webinar is available to all FSOMA members here. Log into your membership account to gain access.

In recent years, acupuncture has gained recognition and acceptance as an effective complementary therapy for various medical conditions. Many patients are seeking acupuncture treatments to manage pain, improve overall health, and enhance their well-being. This article will explore the availability of acupuncture coverage under Medicare and Medicaid, shedding light on how these government programs can significantly impact the accessibility of acupuncture services for patients.

Let’s delve into the world of acupuncture coverage within Florida's Medicare Part C Advantage Plans and the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program. 

Medicaid vs Medicare Coverage in Florida


  • Medicaid was established as part of the Social Security Act in 1965.

  • It provides health coverage for individuals with low income and limited assets, primarily children, pregnant women, disabled adults, and certain seniors.

  • Eligibility is based on financial need and the federal poverty level index.

  • Florida has both state-operated Medicaid and Statewide Medicaid Managed Care programs.

  • Acupuncture coverage is not included in Florida's state-operated Medicaid but is available in the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care plans, varying by county.

  • Florida's Medicaid Managed Care plans are privately managed and offer acupuncture benefits to eligible beneficiaries.


  • Medicare is a federal health insurance program initiated in 1965 for individuals aged 65 and older, regardless of income.

  • It also covers certain people under 65 with long-term disabilities.

  • Medicare provides a wide range of healthcare services, including hospitalizations, physician visits, prescription drugs, and more.

  • There are two primary options within Medicare: Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and Medicare Advantage (Part C).

  • It is administered by the federal government and funded through payroll taxes paid by employees and employers during their working years.

Medicare Advantage Plans and Acupuncture Coverage:

Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, provided by private health insurance companies, offer an alternative to Original Medicare. These plans combine the benefits of Part A (hospital care) and Part B (outpatient care) and often include Part D for prescription drugs. Here's what you need to know about acupuncture coverage within Medicare Advantage plans:

  • Acupuncture coverage in Medicare Advantage plans is available to beneficiaries.

  • Medicare covers up to 12 acupuncture visits within a 90-day period.

  • If patients show improvement, they may receive an additional eight treatments, totaling 20 treatments per 12-month period.

  • The coverage is limited to the diagnosis of chronic low back pain lasting 12 weeks or longer with no identifiable systemic cause.

  • Acupuncture for conditions other than chronic low back pain or those associated with surgery, pregnancy, or recent surgeries may not be covered.

Acupuncture Coverage under Original Medicare:

For individuals covered under Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B), accessing acupuncture services can be a bit more challenging due to certain requirements:

  • Direct Supervision: Under Original Medicare, acupuncture treatments must be provided under direct supervision, which means a physician must be present during the acupuncture session.

  • Office Setting: Acupuncture treatments covered by Original Medicare typically need to be performed in an office setting.

  • Limited Coverage: Acupuncture services under Original Medicare are subject to specific conditions and limitations, making it less accessible for patients in need of regular acupuncture care.

Medicare Advantage Plans - An Alternative to Original Medicare:

Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C, offer an alternative to Original Medicare. These plans are provided by private insurers and are becoming increasingly popular. They are designed to replace Original Medicare and often include additional benefits. When it comes to acupuncture coverage, Medicare Advantage plans offer distinct advantages:

  • No Supervision Requirement: Unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans do not typically require direct supervision for acupuncture services. This means that acupuncture treatments can be provided without a physician present.

  • Expanded Benefits: Medicare Advantage plans may cover acupuncture services based on their specific plan guidelines, offering more flexibility and accessibility for patients.

  • State Variations: It's essential to note that Medicare Advantage plans vary from state to state, and their acupuncture coverage policies may differ as well. Patients and providers should review the details of these plans on a state-by-state basis.

Understanding Medicare Advantage Plans:

Medicare Advantage plans come in different types, including Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), Private Fee-for-Service Plans (PFFS), and Special Needs Plans (SNPs). Each type of plan has its network requirements, making it essential for healthcare providers to be familiar with them.

  • HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations): HMOs have a network-based approach, and providers must be credentialed within the HMO network to be eligible for reimbursement. Patients typically need referrals to see specialists.

  • PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations): PPOs offer more flexibility in choosing healthcare providers, both in and out of the network. Providers can often treat patients from multiple PPO plans in their community.

  • PFFS (Private Fee-for-Service Plans): PFFS plans allow patients to see any Medicare-approved provider who accepts the plan's terms and conditions. Providers can choose to accept or decline PFFS patients on a case-by-case basis.

  • SNPs (Special Needs Plans): SNPs are designed for individuals with specific health conditions or characteristics. Providers should be aware of the requirements and network affiliations related to SNPs in their area.

Credentialing with Medicare Advantage Plans:

Credentialing with Medicare Advantage plans is a crucial step for acupuncture providers seeking to offer their services to a broader patient population. Here are some essential points to consider:

  • CAQH ProView: Acupuncture providers should create an account with CAQH ProView, a universal portal for managing provider information. This portal streamlines the credentialing process by consolidating provider data in one accessible location.

  • CAQH Identifier: Providers receive a CAQH identifier and identification number after completing the credentialing process. This information is vital when working with multiple Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Optimum Health Physical Health Provider Network: Some Medicaid managed care plans, such as UnitedHealthcare, WellCare, Sunshine, and Humana, often cover acupuncture services. Credentialing with Optimum Health can grant access to these networks.

Statewide Medicaid Managed Care and Acupuncture:

In Florida, the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program offers acupuncture benefits as part of various privately managed insurance plans. Coverage details vary by county, and it's crucial for acupuncturists to identify the available plans in their area. The process involves:

  • Determine the Medicaid Managed Care plans available in your county.

  • Review the coverage benefits, including the number of visits and any specific requirements for prior authorization or age restrictions.

  • Consider credentialing with the relevant insurance companies to serve Medicaid beneficiaries in your area.

Additional Medicaid Managed Care Plans: Acupuncture providers should explore other Medicaid managed care plans available in their state and credential with those plans to expand their patient base.

Benefits of Accepting Medicare and Medicaid Patients:

Participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs and accepting patients covered by these plans can offer several benefits to acupuncture providers:

  • Expanded Patient Base: Millions of individuals have access to acupuncture benefits through these programs, allowing providers to reach a more extensive patient population.

  • Increased Compliance: Patients with insurance coverage are more likely to complete their recommended course of acupuncture treatments, leading to improved outcomes and patient satisfaction.

  • Referrals: Physicians and other healthcare providers may be more inclined to refer patients for acupuncture services when they know that insurance benefits cover the cost.

  • Reduced Cost Barriers: Insurance coverage reduces the financial burden on patients, making acupuncture services more affordable and accessible.

  • Steadier Income: Participating in these programs can provide a more predictable and steady income stream for providers, fostering practice growth and stability.

  • Positive Impact on the Community: By offering acupuncture services to underserved populations covered by Medicaid and Medicare, providers can contribute to better healthcare access and outcomes in their communities.

Understanding the intricacies of Medicare and Medicaid coverage for acupuncture is essential for both healthcare providers and patients. While there may be specific requirements and variations between plans, the opportunity to expand patient access to acupuncture services is significant. Providers who take the time to credential with these programs and stay informed about policy details can benefit from a more substantial patient base, increased compliance, and a positive impact on their communities. Acupuncture has proven to be an effective healthcare modality, and insurance coverage can help ensure that more individuals can experience its benefits.

As the acceptance of acupuncture continues to grow, providers should embrace the opportunity to serve a broader and more diverse patient population. By doing so, they can contribute to better healthcare outcomes and the overall well-being of their communities.

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