TENS Units No Longer Reasonable Treatment For Chronic Low Back Pain, Says CMS

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

In many workers’ compensation cases, Medicare pays medical treatment expenses for an injured worker that may otherwise be the responsibility of the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. In the past decade, workers’ compensation practitioners have become well-versed in dealing with Medicare issues and establishing Medicare Set Asides—effectively deals between the federal government (Medicare) and the work comp insurance company to cover future work-related medical care for the injured worker. 

However, Medicare does not cover all types of medical treatment expenses. Thus, certain types of medical treatment cannot be considered part of a Medicare Savings Account (MSA), but those expenses could still be the responsibility of the insurance carrier. One of those non-Medicare-covered expenses are TENS units for chronic law back pain.  On August 1, 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum regarding Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units for chronic low back pain. The new CMS policy indicated that chronic low back pain (CLBP) is “an episode of low back pain that has persisted for three months or longer; and is not a manifestation of a clearly defined and generally recognizable primary disease entity.” CMS indicated that for all workers’ compensation cases settled after June 8, 2012, use of TENS units for chronic low back pain will no longer be deemed reasonable and necessary. While injured workers certainly will continue to use TENS units, the medical charges (if being used for “chronic low back pain” under CMS definition) will not be included as part of MSA funding. Practitioners must be aware of this change when considering any workers’ compensation settlement or MSA pursuit.