A new study finds that care for low back pain initiated with a doctor of
chiropractic (DC) saves 40 percent on health care costs when compared
with care initiated through a medical doctor (MD), the American
Chiropractic Association (ACA) announced today. The study, featuring
data from 85,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield beneficiaries, concludes that
insurance companies that restrict access to chiropractic care for low
back pain treatment may inadvertently pay more for care than they would
if they removed such restrictions.
Low back pain is a significant public health problem. Up to 85 percent
of Americans have back pain at some point in their lives. In addition to
its negative effects on employee productivity, back pain treatment
accounts for about $50 billion annually in health care costs—making it
one of the top 10 most costly conditions treated in the United States.
Published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
(JMPT), the new study, “Cost of Care for Common Back Pain Conditions
Initiated With Chiropractic Doctor vs. Medical Doctor/Doctor of
Osteopathy as First Physician: Experience of One Tennessee-Based General
Health Insurer,” looked at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee’s
intermediate and large group fully insured population over a two-year
span. The insured study population had open access to MDs and DCs
through self-referral, and there were no limits applied to the number of
MD/DC visits allowed and no differences in co-pays.
Results show that paid costs for episodes of care initiated by a DC were
almost 40 percent less than care initiated through an MD. After
risk-adjusting each patient’s costs, researchers still found significant
savings in the chiropractic group. They estimated that allowing
DC-initiated episodes of care would have led to an annual cost savings
of $2.3 million for BCBS of Tennessee.