Chiropractic insurance coverage will remain on the upswing in 2020 as the non-drug pain relief movement continues to reduce opioid use
The long-running opioid crisis is far from over, but progress has been made in decreasing the number of opioid prescriptions by MDs and first looking for non-drug pain treatment alternatives.
“A study published this year showed the overall number of opioid prescriptions have decreased 13% since 2010, with the largest decrease in 2017, and that high-dose prescriptions have decreased by more than 53% since 2006,” writes Sherry McAllister, DC and executive vice president of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP), in Managed Healthcare Executive. “The prescribing shift has been driven by changes in regulations, awareness, and education, as well as payer policies.”
But there is still ground to cover in terms of giving patients easy access to chiropractic insurance coverage, care, non-drug pain management and removing health plan-imposed barriers such as strict utilization limits and high out-of-pocket spending requirements.
Research has shown that private and government health plans have steered members toward formerly easy-to-prescribe and plentiful, thanks to drug makers, opioids by making chiropractic care difficult to seek. UnitedHealth Group’s OptumLabs subsidiary and the Boston University School of Public Health recently released a study that showed higher out-of-pocket costs made it less likely for patients with low-back pain to choose noninvasive treatments such as chiropractic care.
“Many leading payers, however, are supporting more progressive policies that embrace chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and other safer, nonpharmacological methods,” McAllister writes. “For example, in October, UnitedHealthcare announced health plan participants enrolled in certain employer-sponsored medical plans will have zero out-of-pocket spending, including their deductible, if they select chiropractic care for the treatment of low-back pain. UnitedHealthcare estimates that by 2021 this benefit design has the potential to reduce the number of spinal imaging tests by 22%, spinal surgeries by 21%, opioid use by 19%, and lower the total cost of care for members and employers.”
The military and military health plans are now also taking advantage of chiropractic. Tricare, the federal government health insurer for the military, is the most prominent leader in this trend, is now covering chiropractic care for active-duty troops, activated guards, and reserve members, but not families. Next year Tricare is expected to approve extending coverage of chiropractic care to military family members, retirees and their family members.
Insurance plans in California and Philadelphia are significantly expanding chiropractic insurance coverage, as is the Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement.
“Removing those financial and bureaucratic barriers could improve patient outcomes and increase their satisfaction with their health plan,” McAllister writes. “After all, recent survey results show that 79% of adults would prefer to first address their neck or back pain using methods other than prescription medication while DCs earn higher scores than medical doctors in qualities such as listening, convenient/quick access to care, demonstrating care/compassion, and explaining things well.”
For doctors and patients, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recently launched a new website to educate the public about non-drug pain relief and the chiropractic profession’s holistic approach to health and improved function. HandsDownBetter.org is a resource for those who seek alternatives to pain medications and surgery for common musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, neck pain, joint pain and headaches. Visitors also can learn about important federal legislative initiatives to increase patient access to chiropractic insurance coverage, services and can search for an ACA chiropractor in their area.
“People need to know they have options in health care, particularly when it comes to pain relief and non-drug alternatives such as chiropractic services,” said ACA President Robert C. Jones, DC.
To read the full Managed Healthcare Executive article go to www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/news/more-payers-backing-chiropractic-care-2020.