A study published on March 5, 2012 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics looked at several factors concerning how Medicare recipients received chiropractic care. Since the study is specifically based upon Medicare claims, the results are affected by how Medicare covers chiropractic.
Medicare, in the United States, covers chiropractic care specifically for the correction of vertebral subluxations. According to the Medicare.gov website, “Medicare covers manipulation of the spine if medically necessary to correct a subluxation (when one or more of the bones of your spine moves out of position) when provided by chiropractors or other qualified providers. A subluxation is a displacement or misalignment of a joint or body part.”
One of the things the study was trying to determine was if Medicare patients under chiropractic care were also receiving non-chiropractic care for the same problems while they were receiving chiropractic. The significance of this would show if chiropractic was effective, and would also show if there was a cost savings because patients did not need two types of care at the same time for the same condition.
The results of the study showed that, in the Medicare system, the most common diagnosis listed for the need for chiropractic care was one of two codes used to describe subluxation. The associated problems that were shown by code to be most prevalent were back pain, neck pain, and degenerative disc problems.
The study did show that 89.1 percent of the people who went to a chiropractor for a specific problem under Medicare only saw a chiropractor for this condition. In other words, only slightly over 10 percent also went to an MD or other health practitioner for the same problem they were going to the chiropractor for. The researchers state that this indicates that most chiropractic care is not rendered in conjunction with medical care. They stated, “This suggests that there is likely very little referral to chiropractic from other nonchiropractic providers and vice versa, indicating that co-management simply does not occur.”
Dr. Coralee Van Egmond, special projects director for the International Chiropractors Association, summed up these interesting findings by saying, “Chiropractic is demonstrated by this research as being highly clinically effective for this growing patient population. Chiropractic has a special significance for the aging population because it aides significantly in maintaining mobility, and mobility is life for our elderly patients, and serves to help maintain clarity of mind since chiropractic is a drugless science. The research record continues to show chiropractic’s unique cost-effective contribution to the health and well-being of all ages.”