Federal Government Tailoring Medicaid Programs to Support Pain Management Alternatives

Federal government takes on the opioids crisis

As the federal government takes on the opioids crisis, states are following suit, tailoring Medicaid programs to support alternatives for pain management.

In past years, studies show that Medicaid populations are prescribed opioid painkillers at twice the rate of non-Medicaid populations. In fact, a 2015 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) systematic review found no evidence supporting long-term opioid use as a treatment for chronic pain.

In response to the crisis, some states are expanding coverage for both time-tested and innovative approaches to pain by covering multi-modal pain management strategies, including yoga, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, platelet-rich-plasma injections and other options.

In Ohio, for instance, acupuncture was recently approved for Medicaid patients suffering from migraines and lower-back pain. Other states are covering chiropractic care, behavioral therapy, and other measures.

In September, 37 state attorneys general wrote a letter urging insurance companies to provide better coverage for non-pharmacological and non-opioid pain management therapies, citing the ubiquity of opioid prescriptions and the devastating consequences of the epidemic.

The key for Medicaid is ensuring patients are getting proven pain management treatment rather than experimental or unproven actions. As the debate on proven pain management continues, expect more research and studies on alternatives to opioids in the coming years.

The bottom line is that there is no “magic bullet” for pain management. Patients must take an active role in the conversation between providers, drug companies, and government agencies. Discussion with pain management specialists is the first step for a patient who may be confused with the best past forward.

A pain management specialist can tailor a patient-specific program that includes alternatives and natural solutions that can provide a better long-term benefit with none of the downsides of opioids.

Dr. Nikesh Seth is the founder of Integrated Pain Consultants and a double board-certified Anesthesiologist and Interventional Pain Management Expert. He has been voted Top Doc by Phoenix Magazine three years in a row and named the top anesthesiologist and pain management specialist in Arizona.

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