Does Insurance Cover Acupuncture?

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In this post, we’ll reveal the answer to your question: does insurance cover acupuncture? Health insurance is often seen as a safety net for our well-being, providing coverage for medical necessities. But what about complementary therapies like acupuncture? Are they included in the umbrella of healthcare services insurance plans offer?


Does Insurance Cover Acupuncture? Insurance Coverage for Acupuncture

The coverage landscape for acupuncture is far from uniform. Whether or not your health insurance plan includes acupuncture as a covered service can depend on a variety of factors, ranging from your location to the specific policy you hold. Let’s break down these factors to help you understand how insurance coverage for acupuncture works:

1. State Regulations

One of the most significant factors influencing whether insurance covers acupuncture is the state in which you reside. Some states have recognized the value of acupuncture as a valid medical treatment and have mandated insurance providers to include it in their coverage. In these states, you may find it easier to access acupuncture as a covered benefit.

2. Type of Insurance Plan

The type of insurance plan you have can also significantly impact whether acupuncture is covered. Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) and some other comprehensive plans tend to be more likely to include acupuncture, while Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) may be less likely to cover it. Be sure to check your specific plan to understand its stance on acupuncture.

3. Medical Necessity

Insurance companies often base their decisions on medical necessity. If a licensed healthcare provider deems acupuncture as medically necessary for your condition, your chances of receiving coverage increase. For example, if you’re struggling with chronic pain, and your doctor recommends acupuncture as part of your pain management plan, your insurer may be more inclined to cover the costs.

4. In-Network Providers

Many insurance plans have networks of healthcare providers that they have agreements with. If you choose to see an acupuncturist who is within your insurer’s network, you might have a better chance of receiving coverage or reduced out-of-pocket expenses. This is an important consideration when seeking acupuncture treatments.

5. Reimbursement or Copayment

In cases where acupuncture is covered, you may still be responsible for a portion of the cost. This often involves a copayment, where you pay a fixed fee per visit, or reimbursement, where you pay upfront and then submit a claim to your insurance provider for repayment.


What Health Insurance Agencies Offer Acupuncture Coverage?

Understanding which health insurance agencies are more likely to offer acupuncture coverage can help you make informed choices when selecting a plan. While the availability of coverage can vary, several agencies have shown a willingness to include acupuncture in their plans. Here are a few notable ones:

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Many state-specific Blue Cross Blue Shield plans offer coverage for acupuncture services. However, the extent of coverage may differ from one state to another, so it’s essential to check your specific plan.


Aetna, a subsidiary of CVS Health, is another major insurer known for including acupuncture as a covered benefit in some of its plans. They often emphasize holistic and alternative healthcare options.


Cigna has also been recognized for providing acupuncture coverage in certain plans. Their focus on whole-person health and well-being aligns with the principles of acupuncture.


UnitedHealthcare is one of the largest health insurers in the United States. They may offer acupuncture coverage in some plans. However, as with other providers, coverage specifics can vary.

Medicare and Medicaid

In some cases, Medicare and Medicaid may cover acupuncture, especially when deemed medically necessary. However, eligibility criteria and covered conditions can differ, so it’s crucial to consult your local agency for details.

Local and Regional Insurers

Depending on your location, local or regional insurance providers may offer acupuncture coverage. These smaller insurers often tailor their plans to the specific needs and preferences of their customers, so it’s worth exploring options in your area.

Employer-Sponsored Plans

If you have health insurance through your employer, it’s essential to review the coverage options available to you. Some employer-sponsored plans may include acupuncture coverage, while others may not.

Remember that even if your insurance provider offers acupuncture coverage, there may still be limitations and requirements. These can include the need for a referral from a primary care physician or a limit on the number of covered sessions per year.


What Are the Requirements for Acupuncture Insurance?

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While insurance coverage for acupuncture can vary significantly depending on your provider and location, there are some common requirements and considerations that individuals should keep in mind when seeking coverage for acupuncture services:

Medical Necessity

Insurance companies often require that acupuncture be deemed medically necessary for coverage. This means that a licensed healthcare provider, such as a physician or specialist, must diagnose your condition and recommend acupuncture as part of your treatment plan. The medical necessity requirement aims to ensure that acupuncture is not sought for purely preventative or non-medical reasons.

Licensed Practitioner

To qualify for insurance coverage, you typically need to receive acupuncture services from a licensed acupuncturist or a healthcare provider authorized to perform acupuncture. Ensure that the acupuncturist you choose is properly credentialed and licensed in your state.

In-Network Providers

If your insurance plan has a network of preferred healthcare providers, it’s advantageous to seek out an acupuncturist within that network. In-network providers often have negotiated agreements with the insurer, which can result in reduced out-of-pocket costs for policyholders.

Prior Authorization

Some insurance plans may require prior authorization before you can receive acupuncture services. This means that you or your healthcare provider must obtain approval from the insurer before beginning treatment. Failing to obtain prior authorization when required can result in denied claims.

Covered Conditions

Insurance providers may limit acupuncture coverage to specific medical conditions or diagnoses. Common conditions that may qualify for coverage include chronic pain, migraines, and nausea associated with chemotherapy. It’s essential to review your insurance policy to understand which conditions are eligible for acupuncture coverage.

Limits and Caps

Many insurance plans impose limits on the number of acupuncture sessions covered within a certain timeframe, such as a calendar year. Be sure to check your policy for any caps or restrictions on the frequency and duration of treatment.

Copayments and Deductibles

Even if acupuncture is covered, you may still be responsible for copayments or deductibles. These are the out-of-pocket costs you must pay for each acupuncture session or as part of your annual deductible before insurance coverage kicks in.

Documentation and Billing

Proper documentation of your acupuncture treatments is crucial. Acupuncturists should maintain detailed records of each session, including the diagnosis, treatment plan, and progress notes. You may need these records to submit claims to your insurance provider for reimbursement.

Policy Review

It’s essential to review your insurance policy thoroughly and contact your insurer’s customer service department for clarification if you have any questions about coverage. Policies can vary significantly between insurance providers and even within different plans from the same provider.

State Regulations

Keep in mind that state regulations play a significant role in determining acupuncture insurance requirements. In some states, insurance companies are mandated to cover acupuncture, while in others, it remains optional.


Are Referrals Required to Visit an Acupuncturist?

The question of whether referrals are required to access acupuncture services through your health insurance is a topic that often comes with varying answers. It’s a multifaceted issue that depends on several factors, and here’s a breakdown to help you better understand the referral landscape in the context of acupuncture and insurance:

Insurance Provider Policies

The first aspect to consider is the policy of your health insurance provider. Some insurers may have a standard requirement for referrals before they will cover acupuncture services, while others may not impose this condition. To get a clear understanding, it’s essential to review the details of your specific insurance policy.

Medical Necessity

Insurance companies often emphasize the concept of medical necessity. If a licensed healthcare provider, such as your primary care physician or a specialist, deems acupuncture as medically necessary for your condition, it can strengthen the case for coverage. Medical necessity assessments are typically based on the specifics of your health needs.

Primary Care Physician Referrals

In many cases, if your insurance plan does mandate a referral for acupuncture, it may be your primary care physician (PCP) who issues it. Your PCP will evaluate your health condition, discuss potential treatments, and determine whether acupuncture is a suitable and necessary course of action. If so, they can provide the referral.

Specialist Referrals

If you are currently under the care of a specialist for a particular health issue, such as an orthopedist or oncologist, they may recommend acupuncture as part of your treatment plan. In such cases, your specialist might issue the referral.

In-Network vs. Out-of-Network

The referral requirement can also vary depending on whether you choose an in-network or out-of-network acupuncturist. In-network providers often have established agreements with insurers, which can simplify the referral process. Out-of-network providers may require more documentation to establish the medical necessity of acupuncture.

Policy Variations

Insurance policies can differ significantly, even within the same insurance company. While one policy may insist on a referral for acupuncture, another policy from the same insurer may not have such a requirement. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully review your policy documents to understand the specific referral guidelines.

Self-Pay Options

If your insurance policy does not cover acupuncture or you don’t meet the referral criteria, you can choose to pay for acupuncture services out of pocket. Many acupuncturists offer self-pay options and may provide packages or discounts for individuals who choose to self-pay.


Does Medicare Cover Acupuncture?

Medicare Part B provides coverage for acupuncture treatments specifically aimed at addressing chronic low back pain. Initially, it covers up to 12 acupuncture sessions within a 90-day period. If you demonstrate positive progress in managing your pain, Medicare extends coverage for an additional 8 sessions.

However, if there is no discernible improvement, Medicare will not continue covering further treatments, and they should be discontinued. In total, you can receive a maximum of 20 acupuncture treatments over the course of a 12-month period.



Does insurance cover acupuncture? While navigating the world of insurance coverage for acupuncture may seem complex, being informed about your policy and its requirements is essential. Acupuncture can be a valuable therapy for various conditions, and understanding how to access this service through your insurance can help you make the most of your healthcare benefits.

If you want to learn more about insurance and acupuncture, Bradenton Acupuncture and Wellness is here to help you. Contact us today!

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