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Medicare wades into acupuncture debate

Photo: Aytug Can Sencar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Photo: Aytug Can Sencar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Medicare is considering paying for acupuncture, which would be a controversial move, the Washington Post reports.

What's happening: The change would be part of a push to provide alternative, non-pharmacologic ways to address chronic pain amid the opioid crisis. Coverage would be only for chronic low-back pain.

  • Acupuncture proponents note its safety and say that it's worth covering even if it only works for some people.

Yes, but: There's research showing that in many cases, acupuncture isn't much more effective than a placebo.

  • "The whole thing is a big scam," Steven Novella, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, told the Post.

Go deeper: The states using medical marijuana for opioid substitutes