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Chiropractic Care Could Reduce Health Costs, Says Report

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, November 13, 2009

Health insurers and employers may see chiropractic services as a nice addition on members' health plans, but a recent study suggests chiropractic care is also a way to reduce health costs and improve the value of health plans.

The report, Do Chiropractic Physician Services for Treatment of Low Back and Neck Pain Improve the Value of Health Benefit Plans?, was conducted by Mercer Health & Benefits, LLC, and was prepared for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress.

Mercer analyzed peer-reviewed scientific literature that valued the effectiveness of chiropractic treatments for U.S. patients with back and neck pain. The analysis found that chiropractic care is more effective than other modalities for treating low back and neck pain—and costs less than other care.

The analysts reported that the data show insurance coverage of chiropractic physician care for low back and neck pain for conditions other than fracture and malignancy would likely reduce total U.S. healthcare costs.

"Our findings in combination with existing U.S. studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals suggest that chiropractic care for the treatment of low back and neck pain is likely to achieve equal or better health outcomes at a cost that compares very favorably to most therapies that are routinely covered in U.S. health benefit plans.

"As a result, the addition of chiropractic coverage for the treatment of low back and neck pain at prices typically payable in U.S. employer-sponsored health benefit plans will likely increase value-for-dollar by improving clinical outcomes and either reducing total spending (neck pain) or increasing total spending (low back pain) by a smaller percentage than clinical outcomes improve," wrote Mercer.

Gerard Clum, DC, president of Life Chiropractic College West and representative for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, says the report shows that chiropractic care can reduce cost and increase clinical effectiveness. The issue is that most health insurers see the services merely as an add-on rather than a way to control costs, he adds.

"More often than not, it's put in there as something to keep the employee happy rather than looking at the return to the plan and the value to the plan and the employer," he says.

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