Objective: The purpose of this article is to discuss evidence that supports the resolution of inequities for Medicare beneficiaries who receive chiropractic care.
Discussion: Medicare covers necessary examinations, imaging, exercise instruction, and treatments for beneficiaries with back pain when provided by medical doctors, osteopaths, and their associated support staff such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists, and physical therapists. However, if the same patient with back pain presents to a chiropractor, then the only service that is covered by Medicare is manipulation of the spine. Current evidence does not support this inequity in Medicare beneficiary service coverage. There is no evidence to show an increase in serious risks associated with chiropractic treatment of neck or back pain in Medicare beneficiaries. Chiropractors support national public health goals and endorse safe, evidence-based practices. Chiropractic care for Medicare beneficiaries has been associated with enhanced clinical outcomes such as faster recovery, fewer back surgeries a year later, reduced opioid-associated disability, fewer traumatic injuries and falls, and slower declines in activities of daily living and disability over time. Further evidence points to lower costs, fewer medical physician visits for low back pain, less opioid-related expense, and less back-surgery expense with chiropractic utilization. Use is lower among vulnerable populations: seniors, lower income women, and black and Hispanic beneficiaries who may be most affected by current inequities associated with the limited coverage. In this era of evidence-based and patient-centered care, beneficiaries who receive chiropractic care are very satisfied with the care they receive.
Conclusion: The current evidence suggests a need for change in US policy toward chiropractic in Medicare and support for HR 3654. Ending inequities by providing patients full coverage for chiropractic services has the potential to enhance care outcomes and reduce health disparities without increasing program costs.
Author keywords: Chiropractic; Healthcare Disparities; Medicare
Author affiliation: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi, United States
This abstract is reproduced with the permission of the publisher. Click on the above link for free full text. PubMed Record