U.S. Pain’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy, Cindy Steinberg, is constantly fighting behind-the-scenes for improvements in pain care. One recent example: last week she and the Academy of Integrative Pain Management issued two joint letters–one to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance and another to the House Ways and Means Committee–recommending changes in CMS coverage and funding for innovative treatment approaches.

“We are pleased that these congressional committees are recognizing the need to do more for the millions of Americans living with debilitating chronic pain,” says Steinberg. “We hope that they will implement some of our recommendations.”

The seven-page letters included a number of recommendations for improving pain care. Among them:

  • Reimburse primary care physicians and pain specialists for longer initial visits and frequent follow-up visits with chronic pain patients.
  • Allow a greater number of physical and occupational therapy sessions annually, and allow patients to access physical and occupational therapy without first requiring a referral or prior authorization.
  • Provide full coverage for acupuncture, massage therapy, biofeedback, yoga, and tai chi.
  • Provide coverage of behavioral health services for the prevention, treatment, or management of physical health problems.
  • Provide grants to experienced pain patient organizations who have developed support group leader training that teaches self-management skills and provides ongoing guidance to lay leaders.
  • Provide coverage of medical devices that are FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic pain.
  • Track changes in chronic pain prevalence, impact, and costs over time to enable evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions at the population health level.
  • Remove barriers to utilizing nonpharmacological treatments by funding efficacy studies for a wide range of pain management therapies.
  • Set aside funds for more innovative demonstration projects using integrated, nonpharmacological treatments for chronic pain care. Examples of such programs include the Colorado Medicaid Waiver for Spinal Cord Injury Pain, the Rhode Island Medicaid Pain Management Program, Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) Back Pain Services, and the Vermont Medicaid Acupuncture Pilot for Chronic Pain.
  • Increase access to specialized pain management consultation/education for primary care providers to enable them to feel more comfortable treating patients with chronic pain through programs such as Project ECHO and MCPAP for pain.

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