As the opioid crisis grows, states are opening Medicaid to alternative medicine

Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The quickest way to erase pain is to give patients an opioid. But a rise in prescriptions has fueled a national epidemic of fatal overdoses, with a large share of the deaths occurring in low-income communities.

Under intense pressure to combat the problem, states across the country are expanding their Medicaid programs to cover alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga. The effort could increase non-opioid options for low-income patients suffering from pain. But it also opens states to criticism from skeptics who say taxpayers are being forced to fund unproven treatments based on political expediency instead of sound science.

Ohio’s Medicaid department took the most  this month by extending coverage of acupuncture treatments delivered by non-medical providers for patients with low-back pain and migraines, a step likely to allow much greater access and attract new

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