Expanding benefits for veterans and Medicaid patients

Written by by Douglas A. Schwan, DC, Dip ac. Posted in July

As more and more research demonstrates the benefits of acupuncture for treating global pain, old surgical pain, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, insurance companies such as the Veterans Administration and Medicaid are adding acupuncture services as a covered procedure.


Acupuncture in the Western world is a relatively innovative approach to treatment. While Traditional Eastern medicine has been incorporating acupuncture for over two thousand years, only since the 1960s has the West taken a serious interest.

During the Vietnam conflict, many Western doctors practiced alongside Vietnamese physicians treating injured soldiers. The Western doctors were impressed by what they saw, and many then learned these ancient treatment techniques and began writing about and, more importantly, practicing them when they returned to the United States.

While alternative treatments such as chiropractic have long been included as covered benefits for veterans and Medicaid patients, veterans have been covered for acupuncture only since January of 2016. Starting in October of 2017, Ohio Medicaid patients will now find that acupuncture services are a covered procedure. This is wonderful news since, up to now, Medicaid patients have had to scrape together funds to pay for services themselves.

Acupuncture treatments involve the painless insertion of very fine needles at specific points on the body. These points are found along 32 individual channels that are referred to as Meridians by Eastern practitioners. These Meridians carry a form of energy referred to as “qi” (pronounced “chi”). Eastern practitioners believe issues with the qi energy flow can interfere with the body’s ability to heal and can exacerbate pain. Other disciplines have described this energy differently. For example, doctors of chiropractic typically refer to the “Innate” healing energy of the body while allopathic doctors talk about the “Vitalistic” energy that maintains homeostasis within the body. It doesn’t matter what you call it, only that you have enough and proper flow to maintain optimum health.

Today, patients may walk into a clinic seeking acupuncture for a wide spectrum of complaints. We are treating patients for arthritic pain, failed back surgery, global pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia, addiction treatment for smoking or alcohol/drug use, and treatment for PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Treatment for fertility, weight loss, and even cosmetic facial rejuvenation with acupuncture are also seeing a surge in demand.

In Ohio, acupuncturists must be licensed by the state to practice. By far, most of the practitioners are chiropractic or medical physicians who have received advanced training in this complex specialty. A practitioner may also graduate from a specialized school and be noted as an LAC (licensed acupuncturist).

Most doctors that practice acupuncture understand that a new patient will have many questions, and most clinics will provide an initial free consultation to discuss your issues and determine the benefits an Eastern Medicine approach may provide.

If you have been suffering from chronic pain for a while and are tired of taking strong drugs, a more natural treatment with virtually no side effects may be a source of help.❦