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Chiropractic Care Lowers Health Care Costs, Study Shows

A study published in the October 11, 2004 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that including chiropractic care into health plans actually reduces the health care expenditures for those in the plan as well as reducing the overall cost to the insurance company for that plan.

This study was a retrospective claims data analysis, where the records of 700,000 people with chiropractic coverage in their plan were compared to another 1 million people who did not have chiropractic coverage. The utilization records were then compared for a 4-year period to see if there were any differences in usage and expenses.

The purpose of this study was to ascertain the effect access to chiropractic care would have on the overall usage of health care resources as well as neuromusculoskeletal-specific conditions, (such as back pain) within a large managed-care system. The study noted that back pain accounts for more than $100 billion in annual health care costs in the US and is the second leading cause of doctor visits and hospitalizations.

The results showed that chiropractic care reduced costs across the board. For instance, total health care expenditures for plan members with chiropractic insurance coverage, was on average $1463, compared to $1671 for those without chiropractic coverage. As expected, there were also savings for those with specific back pain problems. The study showed that less x-rays were needed, less MRIs taken, and considerably less hospitalizations were needed for the members in the plan that included chiropractic over those where chiropractic was not included.

Comparing the health plans that include chiropractic to the ones that do not, the study found that:

  • Chiropractic care cut the cost of treating back pain by 28%.
  • Chiropractic care reduced hospitalizations among back pain patients by 41%.
  • Chiropractic care reduced back surgeries by 32%.
  • Chiropractic care reduced the cost of medical imaging, such as X-rays or MRIs, by 37%.

Taking into account that this study was published in a medical journal, the stated conclusion was striking. The researchers concluded, "Access to managed chiropractic care may reduce overall health care expenditures through several effects, including (1) positive risk selection; (2) substitution of chiropractic for traditional medical care, particularly for spine conditions; (3) more conservative, less invasive treatment profiles; and (4) lower health service costs associated with managed chiropractic care. Systematic access to managed chiropractic care not only may prove to be clinically beneficial but also may reduce overall health care costs."