Does Chiropractic Care Drive Up Health Insurance Costs?

Here in Arizona, chiropractic care is not included in the Medicaid system (termed AZ Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS).  As an active member of my state association, I have been in the front lines trying to get chiropractic care included in this system.  Here is how it usually goes:

  • Arizona Chiropractic Association: We would like you to add chiropractic care to AHCCCS member who need chiropractic care.
  • Insurance companies: Chiropractic care is expensive and the state budget will have to absorb the costs.
  • Legislator: We’d love to, but the insurance company says it will drive up costs to small business.
  • Chambers of Commerce: We’d love this as well, but the insurance companies say small businesses will pay much more.

Sounds like a wrap, huh?  After all, some insurance companies actually sell chiropractic as a rider, meaning your employer will pay extra to offer it (if this fits you, stick around–you’ll be burning up in anger in just a little bit…).

Now that the emotional side has had it’s say, let’s look at the common sense side of things.

First, it is very clear that chiropractors are conservative providers who do not use drugs or surgery.  Here in AZ, we can order all the imaging and labs we’d like, but I think you’ll find that chiropractors, as a group, are very conservative with ordering advanced imaging like MRI or CT scans (you can read more about the exact statistics in a previous blog article by clicking here).

Next, it has been clear from several studies that those patients undergoing treatment from a chiropractor have lower medication, imaging, hospitalization and surgical costs (you can read about how much money insurance companies blog on expensive and ineffective procedures in a previous blog post here) .  It just makes sense.

So, overall, chiropractic care is safer with better outcomes and costs less.

If chiropractic care saves money for your own care, how much less will it cost for the health plan?  I’m glad you asked, because this particular article was designed to address just this question.  Researchers looked at a group of 12,036 insured individuals with self reported neck or low back pain who did or did not use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Here is what they found:

  • Average annual spending for CAM users (based on propensity matching) was $526 lower for spine-related costs.
  • Annual costs for CAM users was $298 lower for total health costs.
  • Cost differences were primarily due to lower hospital inpatient costs for CAM users.

While CAM does not related specifically to chiropractic care, this is the largest chunk within this group–large enough to be considered equivalent.

Back to my comment earlier about charging to add a rider for chiropractic care on a health plan.  They are charging your employer MORE to provide chiropractic care, but the reality is, that by adding this service, they are likely saving money per life insured.  How’s that for making money at both ends of a deal??

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.