OP-ED: Acupuncture offers alternative treatment for Californians with Medicare

Jeffrey McManus, senior products medical director for Humana in California

Californians are known for living rich, active lifestyles. The warm weather and access to not only the beach but the ski slopes encourage physical activity. Californians have also been known to taking a holistic approach to their health in order to maintain an active lifestyle. As a result, many people are discovering the benefits of acupuncture as an alternative to traditional pain medications.
For baby boomers who want to remain active as they age, acupuncture may be a good alternative to some traditional treatments.
For some people, the body’s natural reaction to aging can be sporadic and often times debilitating. Common health concerns and conditions for many adults 65 and older include being at a higher risk for heart disease, a slower metabolism, arthritis and diabetes.
The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture may provide an important source of treatment for many of these ailments, with very few side effects as compared to some prescription medication, especially for Californians with Medicare who may not want the aging process to slow down their active lifestyle.
For baby boomers – who are just now aging into Medicare – many may want to consider or continue using acupuncture as part of their overall treatment plan. However, while Original Medicare plans are more commonly known to cover traditional methods to relieve pain, it’s always wise for anyone seeking Medicare coverage to confirm whether or not their insurance plan includes acupuncture as a covered benefit. 
Original Medicare, which covers most Americans who are enrolled in Medicare, does not include any coverage for acupuncture. By contrast, some Medicare Advantage plans do provide coverage, although it is still a small portion of those plans.
There are several reasons why acupuncture should be an affordable option for people with Medicare, which include:
It may be a safe alternative to prescription medication for certain conditions. Many adults age 65 and older take a large number of medications, which increases the risk of adverse health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year 177,000 adults aged 65 and older visit the emergency department due to medication problems. Acupuncture may be able to help older adults reduce their use of medications and thereby reduce the risks associated with any medication side effects.
It’s a great pain reliever. Acupuncture is particularly effective in treating a variety of pain conditions that become more prevalent with age, including arthritis, chronic neck and back pain, muscle pain and headaches. In a 2010 survey of 600 rheumatologists, over half said they found acupuncture to be a beneficial treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

It can help upper respiratory issues. In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that acupuncture is effective in treating some upper respiratory tract illnesses such as allergic rhinitis and bronchitis. Acupuncture can also relieve negative side effects associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

It can help with dental relief. Acupuncture can even help relieve certain mouth disorders that can develop with age, such as toothache, Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, post-extraction pain, gingivitis, and acute and chronic pharyngitis – also known as a sore throat.
By seeking an affordable, holistic alternative to traditional medicine for a wide-range of age-related conditions, more Californians with Medicare are not only embracing their dynamic lifestyles but also improving their overall approach to health awareness. Acupuncture is an important treatment option and one that is being offered on some Medicare Advantage plans in California, such as Humana.
To learn more about Medicare and plans that offer acupuncture, visit www.Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY: 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week.