Study Shows Increased Utilization of Chiropractic

A study published in the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Managed Care showed an increase in the number of people using insurance benefits for what the authors termed, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), with chiropractic leading the way. This study was a review of usage of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) by more than 600,000 people enrolled in various healthcare plans in the state of Washington.

The study notes that the State of Washington has a law that requires private health insurance to cover complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) when delivered by licensed providers. The results of the study showed that of the more than 600 000 enrollees in private insurance in Washington, 13.7% made CAM claims. The breakdown of these claims showed that 1.3% of enrollees made claims for acupuncture, 1.6% for naturopathy, 2.4% for massage, and by far the largest segment was for chiropractic at 10.9% of claims.

The study reviewed claims in the year 2002. What was also interesting was that they noted the increased insurance claims had no real additive effect on the total health expenditures. They discovered that the median per-visit expenditures for CAM were $39.00 while the per visit average for conventional medical care was considerably more at $74.40. They tabulated that the total cost of the plans per person in a plan were $2589, of which only $75 (2.9%) was spent on CAM. This makes non-medical care a very affordable option.

The study also showed that enrollees made some 3,246,793 visits to medical practitioners in 2002 and during that same period they made 481,553 visits to chiropractors. The authors noted in their conclusion, "The number of people using CAM insurance benefits was substantial; the effect on insurance expenditures was modest."

In their conclusion the researchers made a bold statement for insurance companies as to the costs of including chiropractic and other services they called CAM. They stated, "Payers have resisted covering CAM providers in part because of a fear that coverage would result in large, steadily increasing, and unpredictable expenditures for CAM services, not unlike the history of prescription drug coverage. Our study performed 6 years after the mandated inclusion of CAM benefits in Washington state suggests that this is not going to be the case."