A four-year study conducted by researchers from American Specialty Health and Health Benchmarks, Inc showed that when chiropractic care is included in managed care plans, those plans actually save money. These results were reported in papers presented at the Research Agenda Conference held in March 2003. The basis of the study was to see whether chiropractic care is used as a substitute for medical care or as an add-on care in health plans that included chiropractic.
Recently there have been numerous discussions in various US state and federal governmental agencies about how to cut costs in health care. Faced with budget deficits, there have been those who suggested that cutting chiropractic care out of coverage would be a way to save money. The results of this study shows that removal of chiropractic care from health plans would actually increase the cost of care for people in the plan.
The study reviewed the health care utilization of 1.7 million people enrolled in a California managed-care plan. In this group approximately 1 million people had chiropractic coverage and 700,000 did not have any chiropractic coverage. The results showed that the total health care costs for people in the plans with chiropractic coverage was 12% lower than those without chiropractic coverage. Additionally, all health plan members who were treated for musculoskeletal conditions, total health care costs were 13% lower among those with chiropractic coverage compared to those without. The cost of treating people with low back pain was 28% lower in the group with chiropractic coverage.
The conclusions of the study showed that many people substituted less expensive chiropractic care for more expensive medical care. This resulted in a decreased use of high cost procedures. The result was that the inclusion of chiropractic care as a benefit in a managed health care plan resulted in a reduction in the overall utilization of health care resources, and a decrease in overall cost. This means that any suggestions of saving costs by eliminating chiropractic care from health care plans is wrong, as eliminating chiropractic would actually cause an overall increase in the costs for healthcare.