27 Mar Medicaid Opens to Opioid Alternatives
In the midst of the opioid epidemic, states are expanding their Medicaid programs to offer more alternatives to the addictive pain relief drug. At Integrated Pain Consultants, opioids for pain management are reserved for specific, often short-term avenues for pain management. There are many opioid alternatives available, some of which don’t require drugs at all (like platelet-rich plasma injections). Medicaid is finally catching up to the need and demand for opioid alternatives, but is it too late?
The US Opioid Epidemic
The U.S. is in the middle of an opioid epidemic, with most opioid-related deaths occurring in low-income populations. Now, some states offer acupuncture, yoga, and massage as an alternative to opioids, covered by Medicaid. However, the move not only offers options for low-income patients, but also opens up the conversation to critics. The naysayers claim taxpayers are being bullied into paying for “unproven alternatives” purely because of the demand for a quick solution.
So far, Ohio has taken the most impressive stance. Acupuncture was just approved for Medicaid patients, including massage by non-medical providers. It’s specifically for those with migraines and low-back pain, two relatively common pain complaints. Such a move lets newer massage practitioners take advantage of getting paid easily and quickly by Medicaid. However, Ohio is far from alone. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, states have been approving similar offerings for chiropractic care, behavioral therapy, and other conservative methods of pain management. Maine and Vermont are both on the cusp of potentially offering acupuncture under Medicaid.
An Alternative Approach To Opioid Use
One major issue is that encouraging an alternative to opioids is steeped in both political and financial murkiness. Many say that alternative treatments are a must to stop opioid abuse. Others say it will drive up the costs of alternative therapies when it’s unclear what the medical benefits are-if any.
Acupuncture is perhaps the most vigorously debated of alternative therapies. It’s being covered under Medicaid in many states, but any evidence of how effective it is can be tough to pinpoint. There’s plenty of research regarding acupuncture, but the actual evidence remains unclear. Still, one thing is certain: Patients and loved ones are becoming increasingly aware of the reality of opioids and the need for alternatives to pain management. That’s the first step in fighting the epidemic.
Learn more about pain management alternatives, including natural solutions, today. Call Integrated Pain Consultants at 480-626-2552.